1. ITV Report

Trans people forced to wait up to two years for South West gender services

Trans people are being forced to wait for months to see a specialist doctor. Photo: ITV News

A record number of people who are transitioning genders are waiting up to two years for their first appointment at the South West's only specialist Gender Identity Clinic in Exeter - this despite the NHS's 18-week target for all appointments from referral to treatment.

One woman who came out as a trans three years ago, is still waiting for an appointment with a specialist doctor. It's feared such long waits are having a huge impact on people's mental health.

Exclusive figures obtained by ITV News show she's only one of over a thousand people, from Bristol to Plymouth, on that waiting list

Number of people on the waiting list for The Laurels Clinic in Exeter.

An essential part of transitioning is receiving care at an NHS Gender Identity Clinic. One woman currently on the waiting list to see a doctor is Amber Evans. She praises the services but says the wait can be very lonely.

"There's a 15 month wait for me, for my first appointment, which was just an assessment, at which point I was told it would be at least another 18 months till I was assigned a doctor."

"The system they have in place is a really good, one, it's just they've had such a massive influx of so many referrals."

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The Laurels Clinic in Exeter is only one of seven adult Gender Identity Clinics in the country. It relocated to Dix's Fields in the city centre in 2010. Back then if you needed an appointment here, you'd only have had to wait for a couple of months. But now, for your first appointment, you could find yourself waiting for up to two years.

A Freedom of Information request from ITV News has revealed there are currently over 1,100 people waiting for their first appointment at the Laurels. They're going to have to wait an average of 24 months - that's six months longer than the national average waiting time.

The NHS Trust that runs the Exeter Clinic said, "our Exeter clinic is very highly valued and our team is providing a great service in the face of ever-increasing demand."

"We recognise the distress that long waits can cause for some people and we apologise for them. We can offer those on the waiting list contact with a volunteer who can offer a degree of informal peer support."

Amber says gender services are at breaking point.

Amber agrees the services seem to be reaching breaking point, and can have potentially dangerous consequences.

"It's just getting worse and worse for the people going there. And they get more and more frustrated and they end up doing what I'd done which is self-medicating. You end up buying hormones off the internet and taking what you can."

"It's really damaging. I mean you see the statistics for like trans suicide and depression, like mental health problems. And, being trans, I can tell you it's like, yeah, you go through all of those kinds of emotions. I consider myself really lucky to not have actually made an attempt on my own life, because so many transpeople do."

But for Amber, and many others on the waiting list, the delays will be worth it if it means being one step closer to living life the way they truly are.