News

NHS England’s plans for the future commissioning of gender identity services for adults – Will Huxter

Welcome to my latest blog on gender identity services.  As always, I aim to cover issues that are current, and are important to the planning and delivery of gender identity services, and what we need to do to ensure that the services that we commission are responsive and high quality.

In this blog I’m going to share with you an outline description of the process that NHS England will use to decide which organisations will host the adult gender identity clinics and the specialist surgical elements of the gender identity pathway in the future.

NHS England will do this by running a national procurement of adult gender identity services, as described in our recent commissioning intentions for specialised services for 2017-19.

I wrote to all of the current providers of gender identity services this week to state our intention to formally serve notice of termination on all of the NHS and independent sector organisations with whom we currently hold contracts for the delivery of specialised gender identity services (surgical and non-surgical), for the purpose of re-tendering the award of contracts via a process of national procurement in 2017. The current providers of gender identity services will be able to bid for the award of a new contract.

Organisations which are bidding for the award of a new contract will have to demonstrate that they are able to deliver the requirements of the new service specifications for adult services. We plan to consult on at least two new service specifications (for surgical and non-surgical services) in the New Year, following a further process of stakeholder engagement.

Why are we doing this?

Firstly, we need to follow a procurement process to identify a new host for the gender identity clinic currently delivered by West London Mental Health NHS Trust, which is England’s largest gender identity clinic (I wrote about this in my previous blog). This provides us with an opportunity to transform the way in which gender identity services are commissioned and delivered across the country. As many people have stated, change is essential if we are to be successful in reducing the historically long (and unacceptable) waiting times, and improve the patient experience in other important ways.

In recent years NHS England has worked with all of the providers of gender identity services in England to begin to address long waiting times, including the provision of significant additional funding in these services. But given the forecast continued growth in demand, and the national shortage of appropriately trained professionals, we know that additional investment in itself is unlikely to solve the waiting time problem, nor will it improve other aspects of the patient experience that we know are important to people who use these services.

We also need to be conscious of the report of Parliament’s Women and Equalities Select Committee’s inquiry, published in January 2016, criticising the delivery and commissioning of gender identity services, including: inconsistent clinical protocols; inequitable access arrangements; out-dated approaches to service delivery; and the absence of a consistent application of clear and appropriate standards.

Therefore, NHS England has asked the Clinical Reference Group for Gender Identity Services to make recommendations on new service specifications for gender identity services. What we need are proposals that will stimulate innovation and transformation in the gender identity services along the entire patient pathway, in order to achieve even better outcomes for people who use the services. This will include, in the longer term, recommendations on outcome measures against which to assess the safety and quality of services along the pathway. We will use the procurement process to provide assurance that the organisations with whom we hold contracts in the future have demonstrated an ability and willingness to deliver services in accordance with the new specifications.

I appreciate that any process of change may cause some anxiety for the dedicated staff who work in these services and for the people who use them, but please be assured that we are very clear that we do not expect that at any point there will be a reduction in the level of service provision as an outcome of this process. Our intention is to address the capacity and demand problems and to address the equity issues that we commonly hear from people who use the services.

I will write again with further details, including timescales for engagement and consultation, in a future blog.

The process that I have described will not include the Gender Identity Development Service for children and young people. We will continue to explore innovative ways to increase capacity in this service and address access issues, and we will review the need for any formal procurement process once we have implemented the new service specifications for adult services.

Categories: BlogsHomeWill Huxter

Tags:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

24 comments

  1. jerry luke says:

    oh dear. the website is broken again.
    I ask difficult questions and the they fall off the screen.
    lets see if this goes through and then i can re-post

  2. jerry luke says:

    Dear Will
    I feel a hint of discrimination entering into this blog.
    Yesterday you answered several posts but not mine about GP involvement , nor that of Samantha Payne about waiting lists or Dr Richards about gamete storage.
    Could you set out for us the thinking behind this blog?
    What is its purpose?

    • Will Huxter says:

      Dear Dr Luke

      I’m sorry if responses do not appear as quickly as you would wish. I aim to provide responses to all outstanding posts at the same time, but some questions require further consideration before answering.

      Kind regards

      Will

  3. Emma says:

    I find this a disgraceful thing. years of stakeholder work down the tube and no consultation or prior information given to the broader stakeholder group that has been meeting and discussing this for over 3 years. It is doing nothing for the trust of the community or those that support them.

    • Will Huxter says:

      Dear Emma

      Thanks for your post.

      I’m sorry you feel this way, but I don’t agree that what we are doing represents a rejection of all of the valuable stakeholder work. In fact, at numerous meetings of the Transgender Network I have heard people call for a national re-procurement precisely along the lines that we are proposing. And other responses to this blog show that there is support for the proposal within the community.

      In terms of consultation and engagement, the considerable engagement to date is shaping the work of the Clinical Reference Group and the numerous working groups in drafting the service specifications, and there will be further engagement and consultation in the new year. Please check out future blogs for details of how to get involved.

      Kind regards

      Will

  4. Samantha payne says:

    And what does this mean for those already on a very long waiting list? Even longer waiting list? If my centre I have been referred to does not get a new contract do I have to go back on another list and wait a further year before being seen? This makes me sad that you plan to terminate all contracts leaving many people with no service to turn to for help or no idea where they will be going.

    • Will Huxter says:

      Dear Samantha

      Thank you for your comments.

      I can assure you that no one will be left without a service, and no one will have their waiting time extended as an outcome of the process. One of the objectives of this process is to reduce waiting times, for both the gender identity clinics and the surgical units, and NHS England is continuing to work with all providers this year to address the waiting time problem.

      Kind regards

      Will

  5. jerry luke says:

    Hi Will
    There seem to be quite a few unanswered questions on your blog, including mine.
    I understand that you are busy but some of these are actually quite important.
    Can you give us some idea of the timescales to which you are working?

    • Will Huxter says:

      Dear Dr Luke

      Thank you for your post.

      As you know, I do try to respond as soon as I can to all respondents. I have said in my blog that I will write again with a more detailed description of the timeline, and I will do that once it is available.

      Kind regards

      Will

  6. “What we need are proposals that will stimulate innovation and transformation in the gender identity services along the entire patient pathway”

    My proposal is to fund gamete storage as a core funded treatment rather than the postcode lottery of CCG [non]funding which currently happens. Indeed some CCGs have protocols specifically written to exclude trans patients.

    This effectively amounts to a eugenic approach as trans people are unable to have their own biological children if they have not already done so when starting hormones or having some surgeries.

    Can we have your assurance that gamete storage for trans people will be core funded, or the commissioners instructed to fund via CCG in all cases please?

    • Will Huxter says:

      Dear Christina

      I think it’s important for the wider audience reading this blog to know that you are a member of the Clinical Reference Group (CRG) for Gender Identity Services. As you know, from recent discussions of the CRG, NHS England’s service specification for gender identity services can only include treatments that Ministers have agreed are specialised and for which NHS England has commissioning responsibility. The specification cannot therefore include gamete storage as this is not a specialised treatment, and is not one that NHS England is responsible for commissioning. This is a treatment funded by Clinical Commissioning Groups. It is for each CCG to determine its own commissioning position for its local population.

      Kind regards

      Will

  7. Dear Will. Enjoy reading your blogs. According to Imperial College website – there are 318 patients on waiting list with 40 new referrals in Sept. Only 7 ops done at Imperial but 22 by private provider. I would like to offer my service for Gender Surgery.
    Please advise.
    Christopher Inglefield FRCS(Plast)
    Specialist Gender Surgeon

    • Will Huxter says:

      Dear Mr Inglefield

      All interested organisations will be required to follow the same process of bidding as part of the planned procurement, once the new service specifications have been agreed in the new year.

      Kind regards

      Will

  8. Chloe Moore says:

    Hi Will,

    By serving termination notices on all GICs, what is that likely to mean for patients on the current pathway?

    I know people who have just had their first GIC appointments, and others who’ve just had their referrals for surgery. Will this revised method interrupt these services in any way?

    Thank you

    • Will Huxter says:

      Dear Chloe

      Thanks for your post.

      No patients will have their planned treatments interrupted as an outcome of any changes to current contractual arrangements.

      Kind regards

      Will

  9. Holly Black says:

    An obvious truth that is going unaddressed is that most (but not all) gender transitioners are modernly accepted as having no mental disorder whatsoever – and yet the lion’s share of the budget for Gender Identity services goes to psychiatry.

    Psychiatry for people who have no mental disorders is a huge waste of money. Gender clinics should be moved from Mental Health services to Sexual Health services with a remit to refer the minority of patients who actually do need psychiatry appropriately.

    Not only would this hugely reduce the cost of providing gender services but it would free up psychiatrists to work where they are genuinely needed.

    • Will Huxter says:

      Dear Holly

      Thank you for your comments.

      NHS England is clear that gender dysphoria is not a mental health disorder. The protocol that we currently use to commission the Gender Identity Clinics describes a multi-disciplinary team approach, with no requirement for a psychiatric assessment. The focus of the protocol is in ensuring that assessment and treatment is flexible in response to individual needs and circumstances.

      Kind regards

      Will

  10. Glad to see a possible overhaul of services as the current system is clearly not fit for purpose.

    I feel GP’s need to be empowered and encouraged to dispense hormones and to provide monitoring. As a transgender m2f I feel my needs are not very different to those GPs are familiar with in prescribing and monitoring hormones.

    For adults a process based on informed consent needs to replace the reliance on ‘experts’ (for hormones); this would significantly cut waiting times. Currently I still have 4 months (of 14) to go before a first London GIC appt and I guess another 6-7 months before hormones might be prescribed. Needless to say that is way too long and I have had no choice but to go private. I have no view on what the process might be for GRS but accept this needs to be ‘expert based’.

    We also need to move to being able to self define gender and not need to apply to some official body. No one can define my gender other than me.

    • Will Huxter says:

      Dear Toni

      Thanks for your post.

      NHS England’s current commissioning protocol in regard to prescribing hormones is adapted from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health guidelines, and requires the specialist multi-disciplinary team to ensure that individuals meet certain eligibility and readiness criteria before taking the decision to refer to the GP for prescription of hormones.

      We will publish the proposed new service specifications in the New Year for the purpose of public consultation.

      Kind regards

      Will

  11. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Will.

    Two points – as CE of a trust providing such services I have received no such letter. And secondly your blog here may well have been seen by our staff already before we’ve had any chance to speak to them to allay their understandable fears when they read formally give notice etc

    John Lawlor
    CE
    NTW FT

    • Will Huxter says:

      Dear John

      Since you posted, our respective offices have established that the letter was addressed to your nhs.net account. I’m sorry for this oversight.

      Kind regards

      Will

  12. jerry luke says:

    Hi Will
    are you taking questions on this blog?
    I notice that you are ignoring difficult questions on your previous blogs.
    That may be your interaction of choice, if so it would be useful if you let us know.

    • Will Huxter says:

      Dear Dr Luke

      I’ve responded to the questions posed on my previous blog, and I do try to respond to everyone who takes the time to post comments as soon as I can.

      Kind regards

      Will

      • jerry luke says:

        Thanks Will, you did indeed answer one of my questions.
        Can you let me know what involvement there will be from General Practice into the new GIC service specifications.
        I am sure you are aware there are currently significant tensions between what the GICs think GPs will do and what most GPs are professionally able to do.
        Sensible service specifications would go a long way to alleviate these problems