Trans people waiting years to be seen at South West's only gender identity clinic

  • Watch Lucy McDaid's report

Trans people area being forced to wait for more than five years for an appointment at the South West's only NHS gender identity clinic in Exeter.

Figures obtained by ITV News West Country reveal this is more than 15 times the NHS target, which recommends people should not have to wait more than 18 weeks.

To get onto a waiting list at one of the specialist clinics, an individual has to be referred by their GP - which can take months or even years.

And there are huge concerns about the impact being on the waiting list can have.

GenderGP is an online transgender clinic used by trans people, many of whom experience the often agonising wait for an appointment at one of England's seven NHS gender identity clinics for adults.

The service comes at a cost - and is not accessible to everyone - but for many in need of gender affirming healthcare, it can be a lifeline.

Marianne Oakes, a lead therapist at GenderGP, told ITV News West Country: "The bit that people don't understand is the faith that people have put in the NHS to look after them.

"They wait in the belief they are going to get the best care, and they wait and wait and wait until it's obvious it's going to go on and on. Then they seek Gender GP. It's heartbreaking.

"By the time you go to a gender clinic to get support for gender dysphoria, you have already tortured yourself. For many people, it is a last resort to finally admit this is what you need to do."

The Laurels is one of seven established gender identity clinics in England.

Both the NHS and the Department of Health and Social Care acknowledge waiting times for gender identity clinics in England is an issue.

A Government spokesperson said: "We are committed to reducing waiting times for gender identity services so that people can get the support they need more quickly.

"We have opened three new gender dysphoria clinics in London, Manchester, and Cheshire and Merseyside, with the aim of opening more services in the coming years.

"Having the right workforce to support these services is also vital, and last year, NHS England established the UK's first postgraduate training accreditation in gender medicine, delivered by the Royal College of Physicians and the University of London."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Devon Partnership NHS Trust, that runs The Laurels in Exeter, explained the service has a seen "a huge increase in demand".

This is partly due to the fact people feel more comfortable to come out as trans and speak to a GP, the trust explain.

Also, it added, "we have had sustained difficulty in recruiting a number of key clinical staff to our service.

"We are very sorry that we are currently unable to see more people, more quickly, and we know how much upset this can cause. We are working with our commissioners to shape our service over the next three years so that we can meet demand."

If you or someone you know needs to access support, the following websites have some useful advice and guidance:

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