After a huge rise in demand for transgender health services, the Gender Identity Clinic ,the UK’s largest provider and governed by the West London Mental Health Trust, has served notice that they will be ending their services.
The GIC have been assisting trans people for years, since 1966, but after repeated warnings of the increasing backlog in the sector, they have announced that they will be terminating their contract with NHS England.
It is now in the hands of NHS England to find a replacement provider for the service, which was hammered home by GIC’s comments that there would be no disruption to patients, as long as the NHS find a “suitable alternative provider”.
Naturally, transgender people and trans activists are concerns about patients falling through the cracks, as well as an increase in backlog.
The NHS Trust issued a statement, saying: “Demand for gender identity services has risen sharply in recent years as society has grown more understanding and awareness of NHS services has developed. This has been challenging for the clinic and resulted in waiting times that are longer than we would like.”
“However, the clinic’s staff have continued to invest huge amounts of energy and, working with NHS England, have made great strides in bringing these waiting times down while still providing a service which is rated highly by patients. However, as WLMHT moves forward it is necessary to refocus the services that we provide. The Board has made a decision that the medium-term strategic focus for the Trust will be to develop mental health services, physical care and integration between the two.”
“As a result, the Trust has come to the conclusion that patients requiring gender identity services would be better served in the long term by another provider, and has therefore served notice on our contract to NHS England.”
“This does not mean services are stopping now – we will continue to provide services as normal until such time as a new provider is able to take over; this is likely to be at least six months. Patients from London and the South East will not be left without services or have to travel much further – NHS England as the commissioner for gender identity services will find a suitable alternative provider as quickly as possible.”
“Patients will not have to start their treatment all over again – continuity of care for our patients is the number one priority for clinic staff. GIC staff will work closely with NHS England and a new provider to ensure disruption to treatment is kept to an absolute minimum.”
“This does not mean we will let services deteriorate – WLMHT and the GIC will continue to deliver on plans we have developed with NHS England to improve access to and quality of services while it continues as the provider.”
“We will not reduce staffing levels – while we remain the provider of this service we have an obligation to ensure there are sufficient qualified staff to maintain and continue improvements in access and quality. We will ensure a smooth handover to the new provider, working closely with our colleagues at the GIC and NHS England.”
“We will keep patients and staff informed about progress on the handover to a new provider and what this means for them as our work with NHS England develops over the coming months.”