Liz Truss fails to answer straightforward questions during trans healthcare grilling from Labour’s Marsha de Cordova

Labour shadow equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova poses for a photograph

Tory equalities chief Liz Truss stood up in the House of Commons and again claimed that she’s opening three new gender clinics to address the trans healthcare crisis – luckily, Labour’s Marsha de Cordova was there to call out these false promises.

Yesterday (22 September), Truss finally announced that – despite overwhelming public support for the proposal – she wouldn’t be demedicalising the gender-recognition process in the UK, and that trans people using the Gender Recognition Act to gain legal recognition of their gender will still be required to obtain a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Truss also said yesterday that she’d “listened to trans people” about the crisis in healthcare, which is so woeful in this country that the waiting list for a first appointment at a gender clinic can be four years long, and would be “opening at least three new gender clinics this year”.

There are currently only seven gender clinics in England and Wales. At least 13,500 trans people are waiting for their first appointment – the average wait is 18 months – and countless others have been unable to endure the long wait, instead crowdfunding for private healthcare.

So, Truss’ announcement that the government is adding three more gender clinics, and by the end of the year, too, seemed like a hugely positive and beneficial thing for trans people.

Except it wasn’t true – Truss is referring to three pre-existing pilot programmes, in London, Merseyside and Manchester, which are already up and running.

When Truss repeated this claim today (23 September) about three new gender clinics in the House of Commons today, Labour’s shadow minister for women and equalities, Marsha de Cordova, began by saying that Truss and the Tories have “disgracefully let the transgender community down” by failing to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA).

Cordova went on to address the issue of these gender clinics directly: “[Truss’] statement included that the government are opening three new gender clinics this year.

“Can the minister clarify whether the three clinics mentioned refer to the pilot services committed to by the previous government in 2018, or whether they represent a new investment by this government to improve trans healthcare?”

Truss swerved the question, replying: “In line with the priorities of the transgender community, we are seeking to reduce waiting lists in the health service by 1,600 people, as well as improving access to services with three new gender identity clinics.”

The Government Equalities Office confirmed to PinkNews yesterday that these are the three pre-existing pilot schemes that were announced by NHS England last year.

The pilot schemes, which are being run out of GP offices and sexual-health centres, are already running and seeing patients, making them neither new nor gender identity clinics.

Noting that Truss didn’t answer her question about whether the three new gender clinics are in fact new, Cordova then grilled Truss on the long waiting lists trans people face to access healthcare.

“The average wait time,” Cordova said, “for NHS gender services is 18 months. Yet the NHS constitution says that the first appointment should be within 18 weeks.”

She continued: “The government have committed to reducing waiting lists by 1,600 people by 2022. But this still leaves an estimated 10,000 trans people on the list. Can the minister set out what steps the government is going to take to bring these waiting lists down, to ensure that trans people can access healthcare within the time set out by the legal framework?”

Reiterating that it is her priority to “bring down waiting lists”, Truss said she wants to make sure “transgender people are getting the healthcare they deserve”.

Truss also confirmed that extra funding had been released – not for gender clinics, but to support Dr Michael Brady, the national LGBT+ health adviser.

Truss added that the Tories wanted to make the gender-recognition process for transgender people “kinder” while also “protecting single-sex spaces”.