Transgender people 'waiting four years' to see specialist

Female, trans and male graphic Image copyright Thinkstock

Concerns have been raised about care for transgender people in Wales - with some waiting up to four years to see a specialist.

Wales currently does not have a Gender Identity Clinic (GIC), so people are referred to the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust in London.

But campaigners said the wait for a referral means some Welsh people are resorting to buying hormones online.

The Welsh Government said £1m extra funding would improve support.

The funding, to be spent on gender identity and eating disorder clinics in Wales, was announced last week as part of its draft budget.

Rowan, 17, from Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan, is a transgender female and first approached her GP two years ago.

However, she is still waiting to be referred to a gender identity specialist - a process that itself can take two years.

"I didn't have friends for quite a long time because I felt I couldn't connect with people," she said.

"Not having those connections and not being able to express myself in the way I wanted to, it made me quite depressed.

"Looking back at it now I can see other problems I was having like depression and anxiety... were actually stemming from me not being able to be honest."

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Media captionCeri Lambert said her transgender daughter's wait to see a specialist was "heartbreaking"

Rowan needs hormones while she waits for her referral, something a GP can prescribe, but they can also be bought online.

Her mother Ceri Lambert said "with no end in sight" she considered buying them from the internet for her.

"If you're willing to pay and you don't ask too many questions about where they come from, a lot of people go down that route," she said.

"You see your child in that much distress and nothing is happening, and you feel utterly helpless - yes I was online thinking should I do this for my child?"

GP Helen Webberley, who specialises in care for transgender people, said it was "crucial" to get the treatment right as soon as possible.

Image caption Dr Webberley offers an online transgender service from her home in Abergavenny as well as traditional clinics

She noted that people can be put on antidepressants which does "not address the root cause".

In response, a Welsh Government spokesman said it was developing a gender identity care pathway, and guidance for healthcare practitioners as part of its Transgender Action plan.

"The aim of this work, which is being led by the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee, is to ensure trans people and NHS providers are clear on what services should be available," he said.

Details of how the £1m funding will be allocated is being finalised, with the Welsh Government set to make "further announcements in the near future", he added.

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