Transgender and non-binary adults waiting for treatment at National Health Service gender identity clinics are placing a heavy burden on Britain’s nationalized medicine system, reports the BBC.
A 40 percent increase in referrals for such services over the past four years has NHS England saying it must increase investment to meet the rapidly rising demand.
Some 13,500 people in England are now awaiting professional help due to gender confusion. Some people have had to wait three years for their first appointment at a clinic, the BBC found. NHS England has pledged to bring waiting times to below 18 weeks but the average wait for a first appointment at a gender identity clinic is 18 months, according to the LGBT Foundation.
The system has been described as “broken” by an ex-soldier who has been waiting to see a consultant since 2016.
Andrea Halliley, 51, went on tours to Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Iraq before retiring from the army in 2014. He went to his GP in September 2016 and was referred to the NHS gender identity service in Leeds, having a telephone assessment in July 2017 and an appointment with a psychiatric nurse in December the following year.
Halliley is currently waiting for an assessment and has been told it could be February or March 2020 at the earliest. He said: “Life is pretty much hell – you are living everyday a battle within yourself no matter what’s going on outside. … The longer and longer it’s dragged out you’re made to feel marginalized and you’re made to feel that you’re not important.”
Gender identity clinics offer support to people aged 18 and above with gender dysphoria, a condition in which a person is distressed because there is a mismatch between actual sex and what gender such people think they are.
The NHS offers hormone treatment, facial hair removal, genital hair removal prior to surgery, voice coaching, speech and language therapy and psychological support.