A Conservative MP has claimed that gender reassignment is a “matter of choice.”

Mark Pritchard, who represents The Wrekin, expressed his view during Business Questions in the House of Commons yesterday.

He said that while he is “not against sex changes” he wants a debate on their cost to the NHS.

“Given the number of sex changes, which are increasing in the United Kingdom year on year, the cost to the NHS, which has scarce resources, and the fact that sex changes are a matter of choice, is it not time that we had a debate about the issue?” he asked Harriet Harman, Leader of the House.

“Many of my constituents do not have access to Alzheimer’s drugs or cancer drugs, but neither of those diseases do they have through choice.”

In fact the Telford and Wrekin Primary Care Trust, which cover’s Mr Pritchard’s constituency, “at present consider(s) the funding for assessment and treatment of gender dysphoria a low priority,” according to its published policy on the assessment and treatment of gender dysphoria.

Ms Harman, who is also the Secretary of State for Equality, told Mr Pritchard he “misunderstands the situation.

“It is not a question of choice: if someone needs to have gender reassignment surgery, it is a question of necessity for them.

“If the honourable Gentleman wants to raise the issue further and ask questions of the relevant Minister, he can do so in the Opposition day debate next week on the NHS.”

Last month Mr Pritchard voted against changes to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill designed to stop discrimination against lesbians and single women accessing fertility treatments.

First elected in 2005, he has a majority of just 942.

A 1999 Court of Appeal ruling recognised that gender reassignment is the appropriate medical response to gender dysphoria and that it is unlawful for PCTs to operate anything that amounts to a blanket ban on funding in such cases.

PCTs may decide that the treatment has low priority for funding, provided that it makes the decision on rational grounds.

The process of allocating money that can be used to pay for treatment, and the relative amounts made available, vary.

Consequently, some PCTs will fund many treatments readily, but others give all the treatments a very low priority.

In its official website the NHS states:

“To an extent, it is a ‘postcode lottery.’

“Each PCT has its own internal committee that sets priorities for spending the money that it receives from the Department of Health.

“Priorities are based on what the committee sees to be the most urgent needs of the local population and what is best for service-users.

“It will consider the cost of each type of treatment and examine the research evidence that demonstrates its benefits.

“It is unlikely that the PCT will set a fixed budget for treating gender dysphoria, because it is a relatively rare condition for which it is difficult to predict the annual number of new cases at a local level.

“The PCT will usually limit its spending by establishing a policy, which specifies the only types of treatment that it will fund.”