18 and strife – 1½ years since GIC referral

There’s an old saying that British people are great at waiting for things – taking their place in a queue and being patient. Well, it’s now 18 months since my referral to Nottingham GIC and I am seriously losing patience.On this very day 18 months ago, I walked into my local GP surgery and, after some initial nerves, came out to my doctor and was promptly referred to my local gender clinic.

Back then, it was known as Nottingham Gender Identity Clinic. I’ve now been waiting so long that it’s been rebranded TWICE, becoming Nottingham Centre for Gender Dysphoria and now The Nottingham Centre for Transgender Health.

For those of you not in the know, the NHS Constitution states that patients “should wait no longer than 18 weeks from GP referral to treatment”. So that’s 18 weeks – not months.

I’ve said before on this blog that my GP stated the wait would be four months. The clinic’s own website at the time stated 6 months.

This was then changed to a year – and then 16 months.

And now, this:

How long is the waiting list?

The waiting time varies, but generally the waiting time for a first appointment is around eighteen months.

Don’t take my word for it – it’s all here in black and white: https://www.nottinghamshirehealthcare.nhs.uk/gender-faqs

Now I’m not blaming the clinic’s staff for being overloaded. Thankfully, more trans people are feeling more comfortable to come out and get treatment. Even in these fascist days of Trump and TERFs.

But I can’t understand, if I joined the waiting list when it was six months, why am I still waiting more than 18 months later?

Have loads of people leapfrogged me in the queue or something? I don’t know – but I’m still waiting and, when I say waiting, I mean I don’t even have my letter to tell me when my first appointment will be.

I wrote to the clinic a few days ago and got a prompt reply from Helen Gardner, the clinic co-ordinator. I really feel for her because she must get loads of emails from people like me, and she’s always been very helpful.

At present we are sending out appointments for patients that were referred in August 2015.  You are on the September list so please bear with us and hopefully it won’t be much longer before you hear from us.

I then replied to ask if she knew roughly when I might get my letter and when my appointment might be. She wrote back:

I really can’t make a guestimate as I don’t want to give you false hope in case my guess is way out. All I will say is that hopefully you should hear within the next three months.  I’m sorry if that’s vague.

So it could be another three months before I even get my letter – and I hear they’re sent out about a month before the appointment date. That’s 22 months – the best part of 2 two years.

Fortunately, I’m pretty close to my apppointment date but, had I known it would take this long back in September 2015, that would have filled me with dread.

It means anyone referred now will have to wait in the region of 22 months – and as we all know, the goalposts move. So will they be looking at even longer? The last I heard, the wait for Leeds GIC was 4 years – and it’s probably even longer now.

With more trans people being referred to these clinics than ever before, the Government MUST stop under-funding the NHS and put more resources into these vital services. Just put a penny on the pound in income tax, for heaven’s sake.

The great British public might wrongly think that such treatment is a “lifestyle choice” and that treatment for physical diseases is more important. The fact remains that thousands of trans people are committing suicide because they can see no other way out.

What about the other people referred in September 2015? How many have killed themselves, or at least attempted to? How many are living with no hormonal relief from gender dysphoria, with crushing depression and panic attacks?

This has to change. Denying trans people treatment for so long is like signing them a death warrant.

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