Legal fight over years-long NHS waiting times for trans healthcare goes to Court of Appeal

A person is holding a skateboard with the colors of the transgender flag and with a message in support of trans people.

Permission has been granted for an appeal against the High Court’s ruling that the years-long waiting time faced by trans people seeking gender-affirming healthcare are lawful. 

Four trans people, trans-led charity Gendered Intelligence, and the Good Law Project, are set to challenge the court’s decision, which was handed down last month. 

In 2022, the groups were given permission to mount a ground-breaking judicial review against NHS England

The legal challenge was brought on the grounds that waiting times faced by trans people accessing affirming healthcare at gender identity clinics were unlawful. 

Originally, the case was brought forward on six grounds but only five were pursued, including the breaching of statutory regulation, breaching statutory duty, directly and indirectly discriminating against two of the claimants and failing to comply with the 2010 Equality Act. 

However, on 16 January the High Court ruled the waiting times were legal and the judge, Mr Justice Chamberlain, concluded that while the NHS has a duty to ensure the 18-week target is met, failure to achieve that standard is not an actual breach. 

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On Tuesday (21 February), the Good Law Project announced it had officially received permission to appeal against the judgement. 

Sharing the news in a statement, the organisation said: “This will allow us to challenge the court’s findings about whether NHS England is in breach of its statutory obligations by failing to ensure timely specialist treatment for trans patients.

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“In giving permission to appeal, the judge said that there was a ‘real prospect that the Court of Appeal might differ from the reasoning at [91]-[99] of my judgement’, and this is of great enough general importance to be considered by the Court of Appeal.”

Eva Echo, one of the claimants, who previously described the waiting time as torture, called the news an “absolutely huge step forward”. 

Writing on Instagram, she explained: “If we can win at appeal, it will not only be a massive win for the trans community but to all NHS patients who are in limbo on waiting lists.”

However, to take the case to the Court of Appeal, the Good Law Project has said it will need to raise £50,000 to cover legal costs – on top of the £215,000 the case has already cost.

Any donations to the cause would be “greatly appreciated”, they said. 

“We are hugely grateful for the support we have received so far. Without the generous donations from members of the public, it would not have been possible for us to take on this important case,” the not-for-profit organisation said.

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