In true Boris Johnson fashion, the ‘new’ gender clinics announced by his government aren’t even new
The government’s long-awaited announcement about the Gender Recognition Act contained very little in the way of actual change, but there was one promise from Liz Truss that, on the face of it, seems extremely positive: three new gender clinics.
Trans healthcare is in crisis. Tens of thousands of trans and non-binary people are on torturously long waiting lists for healthcare, with trans people in some parts of the country waiting four years for their first appointment with a gender specialist.
There are currently only seven gender clinics in England and Wales – so, Tuesday’s (September 22) announcement that the government is adding three more, and by the end of the year, too, seems like a hugely positive and beneficial win for trans people.
“Trans people tell us that waiting lists at NHS gender clinics are too long,” the Conservative minister for women and equalities, Liz Truss, said in her statement on Gender Recognition Act reform.
She continued: “I agree, and I am deeply concerned at the distress it can cause. That is why we are opening at least three new gender clinics this year, which should see waiting lists cut by around 1,600 patients by 2022.”
Increasing trans healthcare capacity by almost 50 per cent in the next three months – whilst the coronavirus pandemic rages on, Brexit negotiations continue and the economy crashes – seems like something so good that it couldn’t possibly be true.
And, of course, it isn’t. Liz Truss isn’t opening three new gender clinics in the next three months – the reason that sentence sounds unbelievable is because it is untrue.
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What Truss is referring to, the Government Equalities Office has confirmed, are three pilot schemes being run in London, Manchester and Merseyside.
They were announced by NHS England earlier this year, and have been seeing patients all summer. The London scheme is being run out of 56 Dean Street, the LGBT+ sexual health centre in Soho, and will continue for three years. Each pilot is offering appointments to people already on the waiting list for a gender clinic.
The second part of Truss’ claim — that, in the next two years, gender clinic waiting lists will be “cut by around 1,600 patients” — is also worth reading twice.
There are currently more than 13,500 trans and non-binary people waiting for their first appointment at a gender clinic. Offering just over 10 per cent of those people an appointment over the next two years is hardly an achievement.
And that’s not to mention the countless trans people who need healthcare but aren’t on a waiting list for myriad reasons; or those who’ve paid for private healthcare, knowing that the NHS wait is too long for them to bear; or those trans and non-binary people in the UK now resorting to crowdfunding their healthcare; or the trans people who need healthcare but are yet to face their GP, come out as trans and ask for a referral.
The trans healthcare crisis is all too real — as any trans person in the UK could gladly, but probably sadly, tell you. Pretending to address this by passing off three existing pilot schemes as brand new, fully-fledged gender clinics is about what we’d expect from the minister for women and equalities who wants to rename the government equalities office “the ministry of freedom“.