The Chair of the NHS England Gender Identity Task and Finish Group reflects on a new top-level report on transgender issues:
Welcome to my latest blog on gender identity services.
I want to say something about the report of the Women and Equalities Select Committee on Transgender Equality, and to update on discussions with the adult Gender Identity Clinics about capacity and waiting times. I also want to talk about the work we are doing with Health Education England on developing the workforce of the future.
The Government will be making a formal response to the Women and Equalities Select Committee, including the recommendations in relation to health. Ahead of that, I thought it would be helpful to share some personal reflections, in my role as Chair of the NHS England Gender Identity Task and Finish Group.
Firstly, I very much welcome the initiative by the Women and Equalities Select Committee to focus on transgender equality for their first inquiry. This has brought a great deal of Parliamentary and media attention to the challenges which the trans community face in their daily lives, including huge difficulties in getting prompt access to supportive specialist and general health services.
The report lays bare the poor experience of many people, and rightly highlights the unacceptable delays in getting NHS treatment.
As part of my oral evidence to the inquiry, I acknowledged that the current waiting times are far too long, and confirmed that we are working with the gender identity clinics (GICs) and the surgical providers to build capacity and to reduce these waits.
At the end of last year, NHS England asked the seven GICs to submit proposals for increasing their capacity and new ways of working, to reduce the length of time that people wait to be seen. We also asked the GICs to make proposals about the support they could provide to people before they have their first appointment with the clinic.
All seven GICS have sent in their plans, which we are reviewing ahead of a meeting at the end of this month with all of the providers. Following this, NHS England will agree with each of the GICs the level of additional investment from the start of the new financial year on 1 April 2016.
Alongside the discussions with the adult services, we are also looking at the additional capacity required for the children and young people’s service run by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. And 2016/17 will be year two of a planned increase in funding for the providers of genital surgery.
All of the clinics have reported that one of the difficulties they face is workforce – the lack of suitably trained staff to take on the specialist roles which are being created in nursing, medicine, psychology and other professions. This issue has also been picked up in the Committee’s report.
NHS England is now working with Health Education England to look at the curriculum and training for post-graduate doctors, and awareness training that could be made available to staff across the NHS. These discussions are at an early stage, but I am hopeful that this will make a big difference to ensuring that we have the workforce we need for the future to deliver the improved services we all want to see.
Finally, we will be holding the next of our symposiums on gender issues at the start of March. At this meeting, I envisage that NHS England and Health Education England will jointly describe the work that is needed to develop a credible workforce and training strategy, with a specific focus on the help that we need from other public sector organisations and professional bodies.
I hope this blog is helpful. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.
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.