A transgender group is taking a stand after years of being 'ignored' by the NHS.
Despite the service's legal obligation to offer a first appointment within 18 weeks of a GP referral, on average, trans people are waiting 18 months for a first appointment, with some waiting as long as three to four years.
These long delays mean teenagers are potentially missing the short window of time in which puberty blockers are useful.
The Good Law Project is supporting a group of four transgender people, including two children, in cases against NHS England for failing to offer a first appointment within the legal timeframe.
Among them is 41-year-old Eva Echo from Cradley Heath, West Midlands, who came out as transgender in 2017.
However, due to constant delays to NHS waiting times, she has had to pay thousands in private health care to gain a sense of euphoria in her own body.
Revealing the struggle of her transition to the Daily Star, Eva said: "When I came out, I knew the NHS trans healthcare system had problems.
"That it was underfunded and badly organised. But with little option back then, I had to join the waiting list for my chosen gender identity clinic (GIC).
"Back then, I was looking at 18 to 20 months before my first appointment. Not ideal but knowing something was happening was some sort of consolation. Since then, waiting times have rocketed.
"That’s across all 7 GICs too. It’s incredibly frustrating because NHS England acknowledges there is increased demand for the service but it doesn’t actively do anything to address the issue.
"Our struggles have become victim to NHS England’s own complacency and gatekeeping. I am just another number to NHS England. I doubt the people who run the trusts or even NHS England have ever met a trans person, let alone take the time to sit down and listen to them.
"Whilst some, including NHS England, are quick to say that the global pandemic is the cause, this is merely an excuse. The trans healthcare system was broken long before the pandemic happened, with waiting times being measured in years even before 2020."
Eva teamed up with the Good Law Project along with other trans people who have long felt ignored by the system.
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Although, Eva says the move has been met by haters who believe transgender people are asking for priority – when in fact, she says they are asking for what everyone else has – health care.
"I’d chose to describe the current NHS trans healthcare system. I can no longer say I’m forgotten. Like thousands of others, I am ignored. They don’t care about us," she added.
"Haters will say there are cancer sufferers etc needing treatment and that we’re not a priority. But I’m not asking for priority. I’m asking for what we are entitled to, what everybody else already has and has had for many years.
"Just because people don’t fully understand our struggles, that’s no reason to dismiss or to disrespect them. That applies to those that oppose us and those who are supposed to help us.
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Director at Good Law Project, Jo Maugham said: "Long waiting times compel many thousands of trans people to live in bodies that cause them great distress because they have already gone through puberty. To confront young people with this fact, when they know a safe treatment exists, is unimaginably cruel.
“This should be about individual patients getting treatment that centres their needs. Not a media circus where politics has displaced expertise – and which ignores patients.
“The Government must start listening to trans people, their families and medical experts and commission services so people are not deprived of the healthcare the rest of us take for granted.”
A spokesperson for NHS England said: “The NHS is working hard to tackle the Covid backlogs that have inevitably built up during the pandemic across a range of services.
"Demand for gender identity services continues to rise as more people feel able to come forward for support and NHS investment is increasing to meet the extra demand.”
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