NHS drive for action to tackle trans inequalities

Health leaders urged to work together to tackle issues faced by transgender and non-binary people across NHS services.

NHS England is spearheading a collective drive to improve the experience of transgender and non-binary people when accessing health and care services.

The body has called an urgent symposium for 30 June, bringing partners from across the health and social care system together with patients to establish a commitment to tackle a series of serious issues faced by these patients.

Extensive engagement with the transgender and non-binary communities has confirmed that many people continue to experience health inequalities borne out of a lack of awareness of their needs and/or stigma amongst health professionals, and problems in accessing mainstream NHS services which are appropriate and personalised to suit the individual.

Representatives from professional bodies such as the British Medical Association (BMA), General Medical Council (GMC), and the Royal Colleges are being asked to sit around the table with patients and leading equality groups, with the aim of encouraging professionals to think about their role in tackling some of these significant issues, and how they can be addressed.

The Gender Identity Symposium will be the first time that organisations with responsibilities for regulation, professional standards, workforce development and quality assurance have met to discuss the care experienced by people requiring gender identity services.

Dame Barbara Hakin, Director of Commissioning Operations for NHS England, said: “Patients have told us that there is an urgent need for action to improve their experience of health services across the board. It is vital that the treatment of these individuals is not seen as a ‘specialist’ issue, and that patients are treated with dignity and respect.

“We are hopeful that bringing together patient and professional representatives in this way will help us secure a joint commitment and a plan to address the inequalities that these patients face.”

Individuals and patient representatives will play a key role at the event, talking about their own experiences, with a particular focus on the need for personal care planning and how fragmented care can have a detrimental impact on their wellbeing.

Suzanna Hopwood, member of the Gender Identity Services stakeholder group, said: “Many of these organisations have a statutory duty within the health and social care system to raise standards and quality of care, and that includes ensuring that transgender and non-binary patients are treated with dignity and respect, whether they are accessing specialist gender identity services, or seeking care for a broken arm.

“There remains a significant lack of awareness across the health system about transgender and non-binary issues, and we hope that in getting everybody together in a room, we can start to address these”.