NHS to face fresh legal challenge over trans healthcare delays: ‘Too many people have died waiting’

NHS England is being sued over the trans healthcare crisis

Legal proceedings have been launched against the NHS over “lengthy and unlawful” delays for trans healthcare.

Two trans adults, two trans children and trans charity Gendered Intelligence have filed a claim for judicial review against NHS England over the crisis in trans healthcare provision.

The claim is backed by the Good Law Project, a not-for-profit, social justice campaigning organisation, and is being crowdfunded.

“For too long, the NHS has failed to prioritise trans healthcare,” the Good Law Project said in a statement. “We, alongside many affected individuals, medical professionals, families and campaigners for trans rights, believe the current system is not fit for purpose.

“The available services simply aren’t meeting the needs of the people they should be helping. Too many trans people have died waiting for the treatment they were entitled to.”

Trans healthcare in England and Wales is provided by seven NHS Gender Identity Clinics.

Gender clinics offer diagnosis, treatment and support for trans people including counselling, speech therapy, family therapy, hair removal, puberty blockers, and referrals for hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgeries.

More than 13,500 trans and non-binary people are waiting for a first appointment at a gender clinic after being referred by their GP. In some parts of the UK, the wait for a first appointment is as long as five years.

This means that trans people are left in limbo, without any support or resources, after going to their GP and asking to be referred for specialist trans healthcare.

Describing the impact of waiting so long for healthcare, Eva Echo, one of the claimants in the case against NHS England, said in a statement: “I would describe being on the waiting list as torture, and there were times when I felt that I may not even be alive long enough to receive my first appointment. Being on the waiting list was no comfort; I desperately needed help.

“My mental health was worse than it had ever been; coming out had allowed me to recognise my gender dysphoria, but I was left completely alone to manage it. I felt, and still feel, completely let down by the system that I thought was there to save me.”

The judicial review’s key points are: the NHS has failed to treat trans patients within 18 weeks of referral by a GP, failed to provide puberty blockers to trans kids before they hit puberty, and discriminated against trans patients because gender clinic waiting times are longer than for most other healthcare services.