'My life is on hold': Birmingham trans campaigner reacts after group loses High Court battle

  • Eva Echo says that she and others will appeal the High Court ruling

Campaigners have lost a High Court challenge against NHS England over waiting times for gender dysphoria treatment.

Eva Echo, an activist from Birmingham who was one of the people to bring the case, described it as "frustrating and disappointing," and cited the long wait times that people already have to undergo to see a gender specialist.

"Let's remember this is just for a first appointment," she told ITV News Central.

"Once you get into the system you're waiting for up to twelve months in between appointments. People just can't hang on. People are really suffering."

Three other people, along with charity Gendered Intelligence and legal campaign group The Good Law Project, brought legal action over the “extreme” wait for a first appointment with a specialist.

They argued that the body is failing to meet a duty to ensure that 92% of patients referred for non-urgent care at services commissioned by NHS England including gender dysphoria clinics – start appropriate treatment within 18 weeks.

However, in a ruling on Monday, Mr Justice Chamberlain dismissed the claim, finding that this is a duty to “make arrangements” and applies to patients as a whole, rather than individuals.

The judge also said that ordering the organisation to ensure it meets the standard by a particular time “would impose a legal obligation on NHS England to divert resources from elsewhere”.

At an earlier hearing the High Court was told that as of August last year, 26,234 adults were waiting for a first appointment at a gender dysphoria clinic, with 90% of those having waited for longer than 18 weeks - a substantially higher percentage than for patients with other concerns.

  • Eva has been waiting over five years for an appointment

Eva Echo told ITV News Central that long waiting times meant her life was "on hold," pointing out that she herself has waited over five years for an appointment.

She added: "I don't know what will happen, I'm just having to wait, and it's incredibly frustrating. Personally, for me, it's really taken a toll on my mental health."

The judge later said it was important to note “the serious effects” of long waiting times on two of the people bringing the claim, who are both children.

He said: “Their distress and fear, as described by their parents, is particularly affecting because its source lies in their own changing bodies.

“It is a matter of great regret that many other children and adolescents waiting for children’s gender identity development services must face the same distress and fear.”

An NHS spokesperson said: “The NHS notes today’s judgment, which saw the claim dismissed on all grounds and acknowledges steps already being taken to reduce waiting times for gender healthcare services.”

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