Correspondence between NHS England and Healthwatch England regarding concerns over gender identity services.
Statement from UK Trans Info
UK Trans Info has campaigned for many months to get NHS England to acknowledge that patients have the legal right to access gender identity services within 18 weeks of being referred by their GP, and then later to access surgery within 18 weeks of being referred by their GIC. There have been repeated claims from NHS organisations that gender identity services are exempt from this legislation, but our position has consistently been that these organisations are incorrect in their understanding of the legal position.
We are therefore very pleased to announce that today we have obtained a letter from NHS England to Healthwatch England's Chief Executive dated January 2015. This letter shows that NHS England's Specialised Commissioning Oversight Group "met on 16 December 2014 and agreed the applicability of the 18 week Referral to Treatment standard for referrals into gender identity services."
The letter goes on to very clearly state: "NHS England agrees that the people accessing gender identity services have a legal right under the NHS Constitution to be seen within 18 weeks of referral."
We expect that an official announcement of NHS England's position will be released in the coming weeks.
UK Trans Info welcome that NHS England have finally accepted the true legal position. We recognise that it will not be quick or easy to bring the excessive waiting lists back down to within legal limits, but the first step to fixing a problem is to acknowledge it's existence. The letter states that NHS England will first be focussing on reducing the waiting times for genital reconstructive surgery. It says that "Area teams have been asked to initiate discussions with providers as a matter of urgency about potential options to expand capacity and [...] progress with moving towards and sustaining the standard will be the subject of routine performance and exception reporting."
The full letter is available below. It also discusses other concerns raised by Healthwatch England.