It was also reported that those seeking gender reassignment at one of England’s eight centres face a waiting list of over three years.
According to NHS guidelines, the initial appointments for hormone therapy and surgery consultations should be within 18 weeks. NHS England explained how centres were limited due to a “shortage of suitably qualified staff” but an additional £4 million funding has been put into the services.
In England, there are currently around 4,500 referrals to gender identity clinics each year and The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee report showed the demand for these clinics is growing at nearly 30 per cent annually.
The report said that one of the largest clinics in England has admitted that appointment waiting times are currently between 12 and 18 months. At this current rate, it has been estimated that by 2017, the waiting times for physical surgery will reach three-and-a-half-years.
There are currently no clinics in the northwest of England. Transgender people in this area have to travel to Leeds, Sheffield, the Midlands or London for treatment.
Ashleigh Talbot, from Manchester, is receiving hormone treatment three years after first approaching her GP. With no clinics nearby, she was referred to a clinic in Charing Cross, London.
“I have been on hormones since August… I initially spoke to my GP in 2012. I elected to go to London because I was told by the community mental health team that the waiting time in the Leeds clinic would be an additional three years.”
Transgender people are often required to undergo hormone therapy for at least a year before consultations at a gender identity clinic. If surgery is deemed appropriate, the person will be given a consultation with a surgeon. All of which have individual waiting times.
Before any surgery to fully transition, patients must be seen by two psychiatrists – something Dawn Pomfret, transgender patient, believes adds unnecessary stress to the situation.
Chairman of NHS England’s Gender Identity Task and Finish Group, Will Huxter said how the number of gender identity centres around the country is limited due to the shortage of “suitably qualified and experienced staff”.
“We recognise the urgent need to bring down waiting times and to this end we have met with all the clinics to agree plans to increase capacity from April 2016.”
NHS England has announced they aim to bring appointment waiting lists down to less than 18 weeks by 2018.