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NHS England waiting times for gender dysphoria patients unlawful, court hears

NHS England has acted unlawfully by making thousands of patients with gender dysphoria wait “extreme” periods of time for treatment, the high court has heard.

Transgender claimants, who have suffered distress as a result of delays, want the court to declare that NHSE broke the law by failing to meet a target for 92% of patients to commence treatment within 18 weeks.

NHSE figures show there are 26,234 adults waiting for a first appointment with an adult gender dysphoria clinic, of whom 23,561 have been waiting more than 18 weeks. The number of children on the waiting list is approximately 7,600, of whom about 6,100 have been waiting more than 18 weeks.

In a witness statement, one of the claimants, Eva Echo, said she received a referral in October 2017 but had still not been given a first appointment, leaving her in “painful indefinite limbo”. A co-claimant, Alexander Harvey, who has been waiting for a first appointment since 2019, said the delay “means that I have to continue to live in a body which I don’t feel is mine and which does not reflect who I am”. He said he had twice tried to kill himself.

In written submissions for Tuesday’s hearing, David Lock KC, representing the claimants, said delays to puberty-blocking treatment – the current waiting time for children to access services is more than two years – could cause “intense anxiety and distress” to adolescents as a result of them experiencing “permanent and irreversible bodily changes”.

While NHSE accepts it has not met the 92% target across the cohort of patients for whom its health services are commissioned, it claims a breach does not give rise to enforceable individual rights.

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Source: The Guardian, 29 November 2022


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