Transgender healthcare in Scotland is ‘not serving its purpose’ as young people on gender identity waiting lists soar

Data confirmed by the Scottish National Health Service has shown that waiting lists for young transgender people to see a gender specialist are growing rapidly.

The number of people under 18 on the Youth Gender Service waiting list at Sandiford Hospital has grown from 151 in 2017 to 903 this year.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said this increase and Covid pressures have impacted wait times.

The number of people under the age of 18 on the waiting list for youth gender assistance at Sandiford Hospital increased from 151 in 2017 to 903 in 2022.

The only dedicated service for children, the Glasgow-based clinic primarily helps transgender individuals facilitate medical and surgical transitional care.

Currently, the average waiting time to see a doctor is two years and three months.

This raised concerns about young people going online to access unregulated treatment.

Prescription of puberty blockers to suppress sex hormones will only be prescribed in the NHS by an endocrinologist after a full evaluation.

Hormones such as estrogen or testosterone are prescribed in Scotland only from the age of 16.

Ellie Gomersoll, 22, a trans woman, chairman of the Scottish organization Young Green, said the transgender health care model in Scotland was “not fit for purpose”.

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She said: “I have personally been on the waiting list for an initial appointment for 42 months as of February 2022 and it looks like I still have many more months to wait, even if I have an initial appointment it will probably be years. before I actually get the help I need.

“For many young people on waiting lists, their bodies can be irreversibly altered by puberty before they can be seen, which can cause a lot of stress.”

Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Gregor Smith, has ordered a review of the Scottish gender reassignment protocol, recognizing that services for transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse people require transformation.

Maggie Chapman, Scottish Greens spokesperson for equality, said: “It is essential that we provide timely and appropriate support and care for transgender people, including young people under the age of 18, who are in need of specialized gender and sexual health services.

“Reducing the waiting time for transgender healthcare and support was the key to the collaboration agreement that brought the Greens to power, and we are working to deliver on that.

“The increase in the number of young people accessing these services reflects increased awareness of what is available and of a supportive environment that allows people to open up.

“We must continue to work to ensure that people do not face discrimination or marginalization when seeking the services they need.”

To reduce waiting times and support those waiting for services, the Scottish Government plans to provide £9 million over 3 years, of which £2 million will be earmarked for crisis funding for trans medicine in this year’s budget.

However, Ms Gomersoll said “the whole system is broken and in desperate need of reform.”

A spokesman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is working to restart the clinical service, including arranging appointments for those on the waiting list. The recruitment of additional personnel for the service is also ongoing at this time.”

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