A Gender Identity Clinic Saw Just Two New Patients in the Whole of 2020

A Freedom of Information request to the Laurels Gender Identity Clinic in Exeter reveals only two new patients were seen last year, despite a waiting list of over 2,500.
March 8, 2021, 5:34pm
A trans patient in a consolation with a doctor
Photo: VICE / The Gender Spectrum Collection

A gender identity clinic in south-west England only assessed two new patients in 2020, despite having thousands of patients on the waiting list. 

The Laurels Gender Identity Clinic in Exeter, which specialises in the treatment of gender dysmorphia, had 2,592 patients on its waiting list between December 2019 and November 2020. During that period, 495 new patients were referred to the clinic, while the longest patient waiting time was almost six years.

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Waiting times for gender identity clinics in the UK have reached inordinate heights as services see a huge increase in referrals. NHS official guidance states that patients should receive an assessment within 18 weeks. The average wait time, however, is much higher, with most patients waiting years to receive an initial assessment

Devon Partnership NHS Trust, which oversees the clinic, told VICE World News: “Like other gender services across the country, we are working hard to keep up with the huge increase in demand that we have seen over the last few years.”

The information was revealed via a publicly available Freedom of Information (FOI) request sent to the trust by someone identified only as “K Hilton.” The Trust’s response was posted on the website WhatDoTheyKnow.com, which publicises FOI requests.

The FOI response was posted on the Reddit subreddit Transgender UK by someone who said they originally saw it on TikTok. The poster claims to have been a patient themselves at the clinic, writing: “It's awful. The service is failing us all. I was referred there last year and I've completely lost hope of receiving an appointment.”

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The spokesperson for the Devon Partnership NHS Trust said: “We are currently focusing on those people who have already started their treatment with us, which is why the number of new assessments is low. We are working well with our commissioners to shape our service over the next three years so that we can meet the continuing increase in demand.”

Last year, a trans teenager launched legal action against the NHS over delays to treatment with support from the Good Law Project. However, this case is now on hold, pending the recent puberty blocker ruling from the High Court.

Jeff Ingold, head of media at LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall said: “It’s both shocking and upsetting to hear only two new patients have been seen by Laurels. It’s unacceptable that trans people are waiting years to access specialist support through the NHS.”

“This system is extremely under-resourced and clearly not working, as many trans people are being left in distress without any support,” he continued. “The government must remove barriers and properly resource medical care for trans people, and ensure trans people are able to receive timely and comprehensive healthcare through the NHS.”