Gender identity clinic waiting lists in the north ‘need to be addressed’

In Northern Ireland there are currently 493 people on the waiting list for the gender identity clinic with some waiting more than four years for their first appointment with a consultant.

Tuesday, 10th August 2021, 11:48 am

Members of Derry and Strabane Council were given this information when People Before Profit Councillor Maeve O’Neill brought forward a motion calling for council to ‘write to the Health Minister and Department of Health to ask what measures are being taken to address waiting lists for trans people accessing the gender identity clinic and to request the setting up of a North West healthcare support for trans and non binary people.’

Councillor O’Neill, a health care worker in the city, said: “The Pride Festival was born from the struggle of the LGBTQ+ oppression and discrimination and one of the biggest inequalities facing the LGBTQ+ community at the moment is trans health care.”

Colr. O’Neill said the gender identity clinic at the Brackenburn Clinic haven’t taken on any new patients from 2018 to 2020 and alsohaven’t taken on any new referrals “as they deal with their extensive backlog”.

People Before Profit Councillor Maeve O'Neill.

She also claimed central funding has been cut over the last couple of years.

“There has been no investment in bringing in health care providers to match the demand on the services and there has been an increasing demand on the gender identity clinic, particularly with the rising numbers of the young trans community.

“There have been no gender-affirming surgeries happening at the moment. Many people in the trans community wish for this health care to happen at home and this is a huge undertaking for anyone wishing to have this surgery. It’s made even more inaccessible for trans and non binary people as they are forced to travel to England or other countries. Many trans and non binary people are forced into self medicating or paying privately for their treatment and many are having to fundraise to have their surgery.

“The gender recognition process for trans people in the north is completely outdated and gives no self-determination which the gender recognition act in the south does. We need trans care health services that are community based, trans led and gender-affirming. Trans people here in the north west have to travel more than four plus hours to access an appointment that might only last less than an hour. We need north west specific services for our trans community here.”

Supporting the motion, Sinn Fein Councillor Michaela Boyle agreed ‘quality’ services should be available to the LGBTQ+ community. “Emma Sheerin, a Sinn Fein MLA, has been to the fore ensuring services at Brackenburn Clinic have been open for face to face appointments following its closure due to Covid and we welcome the news that the Brackenburn Clinic is taking some appointments. Some patients have been on unacceptably long waiting lists and this has been detrimental to a number of individuals in the community as a whole.

“Whilst it is good to see a resumption of some services, we in Sinn Fein urge the Health Minister to allow for a full reopening in the clinic and to invest further in these much needed services and to establish a specific north west health care support for trans and non binary people to access services.”

Speaking of his party’s commitment to supporting Pride events throughout the country and those in the LGBTQ+ community, SDLP Councillor Sean Mooney referred to the number of hate crimes against the community. He said: “Having seen the stats published by the PSNI on hate crime, the Rainbow Project estimated that 64% of hate crime against this community goes unreported. Taking into account the Rainbow Project’s estimation, this would bring the total number of incidents reported and unreported to around 1,200 in the year ending March 2021.”

Alliance Councillor Rachael Ferguson added: “We have seen more and more of our younger generation being more confident in their identity and sexuality and this is thanks to the work of the activists who have worked for many years and the oppression many have felt for far too long. Even though we have had great strides in progressiveness we won’t truly be showing our support to the LGBTQ+ community unless we have equal and adequate access to health services.”

The motion passed, however the DUP councillors abstained from the vote.

Gillian Anderson

Local Democracy Reporter