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NHS doctor refused to treat transgender patient ‘because of his religion’, Parliament hears

Nick Duffy September 8, 2015

An NHS doctor refused to treat a transgender patient because of his religion, a Parliamentary inquiry has heard.

The Women and Equalities committee today heard evidence from a range of health experts and trans campaigners, as part of an inquiry into trans healthcare issues.

The evidence session following warnings that the NHS gender identity services are ‘spiralling out of control’ with backlogs amid a growing number of trans people seeking help.

Speaking to the Parliamentary committee, Terry Reed OBE, co-founder of the Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES), warned about attitudes to trans issues inside the NHS.

She said: “A few years ago, a survey was done on a mix of GPs and hospital doctors, and 84 percent of them responded that they didn’t think public money should be spent on ‘lifestyle choices’.

“In the medical profession, the understanding of the condition itself does colour the way people respond.”

Referring to trans issues being listed as a mental health disorder, she said: “There’s some of that feeling, still, in the way people interact with trans people.”

“Very often the reason trans people are reluctant to seek treatment is because of the use of the wrong names and pronouns, the wrong titles.

The campaigner also recounted one specific incident of stigma, telling the committee: “Just recently we had a doctor refuse to treat someone on religious grounds. That’s relatively rare that they’d say that out loud, but this doctor did. ‘I don’t believe in this, and I won’t treat you because of my religion.’

“There are a whole range of reasons why trans people still experience difficulty. Not just accessing treatment for their gender issues, but across the board.”

Steve Shrubb, Chief Executive of West London Mental Health NHS Trust, highlighted the need for change in the system, adding he believes that currently trans people are not treated equally.

He said: “Transgender individuals really do suffer stigma.

“There are significant numbers of NHS staff who are empathic, but as [trans people] travel through our system, which is sometimes a complex system, I don’t believe there is equality.

“Service users tell me it can feel like that they are not being treated equally.”

Asked whether he is directly saying trans people do not have equality within the NHS, he confirmed: “Overall, that is my view. I think we can debate what percentage is due to lack of information. I’m just giving you my sense of what I pick up from [patients and staff]. It doesn’t feel to me like they are treated equally.”

Dr John Dean, Chair of the Clinical Reference Group for Specialised Gender Identity Services for NHS England, called for existing doctors and GPs to be trained on trans issues, saying: “There’s so many things competing for medical practitioners’ time for professional development that it’s difficult to get them to prioritise it until they are confronted for a patient for the first time – and that’s happening with increasing frequency.

“The number of people seeking help is increasing dramatically, and it is no longer appropriate for any doctor to say ‘this is a terribly rare condition, it’s very specialised, I don’t have to know about it’.

“Trans people are people, who want to be treated like people, and want to access healthcare just as other people. That’s possible and appropriate.

Former equalities minister Maria Miller, who chaired the committee, hailed the trans community’s large-scale response to a call for evidence.

She said: “We’ve had more than 230 submissions to this enquiry, which is just extraordinary.”

More: doctor, Gay, LGBT, NHS, Religion, Trans, Transgender

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