Welcome to my third blog as Chair of NHS England’s Gender Identity Services Task & Finish Group. And thanks for the comments I’ve received on my previous blogs.
It was great to see some of you at the sixth meeting of our Transgender and Non-Binary Network in London, where I reiterated my strong personal, and professional, commitment to shaping and improving gender identity services. I know that others who were not in the room were able to watch the meeting via the webcast.
I was really impressed with the wide-ranging nature of the many discussions which took place throughout the day, and the energy, expertise and enthusiasm of all those who took part. Everybody had a contribution to make, and we will be capturing those views and comments in a report, which will be published via a future blog post.
One of the great things about these events is to hear directly from the community about experience of services, and ideas about how we can make things better.
We also had a really useful session with colleagues from the Gender Identity Clinics (GICs) sharing their ideas and plans, on the back of a letter from me requesting their proposals for reducing waiting times to be seen, and how they are going to support people who are waiting for clinic appointments.
This includes access to volunteers and third sector organisations. These proposals from the GICs will be used to decide the level of additional funding from April 2016; and I committed to come back to a future meeting with a detailed breakdown of how much NHS England spends on gender services.
Feedback in the room confirmed that we need to do more as NHS England to understand the variations in assessment processes between clinics, so we can share best practice consistently.
I also heard about the difficulties encountered by people trying to get back into the system, having experienced problems some years after surgery; and the inconsistent information that people receive about the 18 week waiting time target. The target does apply to gender identity services. What we need to do is make sure we implement plans to drive down the current waits. I look forward to sharing progress with you at the next Network event.
One of the speakers was NHS England’s Head of Primary Care, David Geddes. David is a GP in York, and brought his personal experience to discussions about how to improve patient experience in primary care. This is a topic which we have already opened up through our work with a number of national organisations at the Symposium earlier this year.
David talked about the importance of joining up primary, secondary, tertiary and voluntary sector care, and moving away from the traditional notion of the GP as ‘gatekeeper’. He saw the GP’s future as that of a ‘navigator’, helping people to find their way around the system. He saw his role as being able to offer ‘more intelligent support’, making the wait for specialist appointments more manageable for the patient, helping them to live with uncertainty.
David’s attendance at the Network is a tangible demonstration that we are taking a more joined up approach within NHS England to all aspects of NHS care for people with gender dysphoria.
We know that continuity, and access to a familiar GP, are important to you. There was also discussion about the need to improve communications, and, in particular, the development of co-ordinated advice for GPs about referral to GICs.
GP prescribing remains an issue, as does discrimination against transgender patients. David not only made a commitment to attend a future Network meeting, but also to work with me and colleagues to tackle some of the issues which you have raised with us over the past couple of years. This is really welcome.
The overall impression I took away from the event was one of progress being made. Yes, it is slower than we would like, but there can be no doubt that we are making inroads and I see this continued dialogue with the transgender and non-binary community – via the Network – as critical in helping us shape the future.
On a final note, I just want to draw your attention to a couple of documents which we have published on our CRG pages: one looking at patient experience, and the other, setting out the findings of the recent visits to six of the seven specialist clinics.
If you have any feedback on either of these reports, or the Network event, please do not hesitate to get in touch, and I will respond to your comments as quickly as I can. You can also Tweet via #nhsgenderid
Will Huxter is Regional Director of Specialised Commissioning (London) at NHS England, currently chair of the NHS England Gender Task & Finish Group and Senior Responsible Officer for the CHD Commissioning and Implementation Programme.
Prior to joining NHS England in June 2014, Will worked in a range of commissioning roles within the NHS, and for five years at an NHS Trust.
He has also spent eight years working in the voluntary sector.