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Trans men in pain and mental distress through NHS failures

The UK’s trans male community is in despair. Because despite a legal obligation to provide medical treatment for all trans people, the NHS has, since October 2020, had no surgical facility capable of providing gender confirmation surgery for trans men or non-binary people assigned female at birth.

This means that people with pre-existing complications have been left in acute pain for a year or more. In addition, it is causing serious distress and mental health issues to the people impacted, who now have no idea when they might receive timely promised treatment.

A letter delivered on 2nd September to NHS Health Secretary Sajid Javid, warns of the scale of this disaster – and asks that he step in on behalf of an increasingly desperate segment of the trans community.

According to Chay Brown, Director of TransActual:

“This is a problem entirely of the NHS’ making, and nothing to do with COVID-19. St Peter’s Andrology Centre is the only UK based surgical team commissioned or able to provide phalloplasty and metoidioplasty, specialist procedures sought by trans men and some non-binary people.

“The contract was withdrawn from the team by the NHS at some point between October 2020 and April 2021, but patients were only given confirmation that this had happened in May. So, when elective surgical procedures for general patients re-started in April, trans men and non-binary people could only wait.

“Since then, the situation has deteriorated further. After initially claiming that there was no issue, the NHS then promised matters would be resolved by July. It is now September; there is still no sign of a solution; and trans men and non-binary people no longer believe that the NHS is committed to supporting them.

“Patients promised swift follow-up surgery are now in limbo. Patients with complications, some serious and painful, are unable to access any treatment that would reduce their distress. We have received reports of individuals having mental health issues as a direct consequence of this delay. We are also hearing of self-harm and worse.

“That is why TransActual has today written to Sajid Javid to remind him that the NHS is obliged to ensure that trans men and non-binary people can access genital reconstruction surgery. They are also asking him to instruct the NHS:

– to provide specific and immediate mental health support to anyone on the waiting list for a phalloplasty or metoidioplasty;

– to provide funding for trans people to access phalloplasty and metoidioplasty overseas until the UK team (once it has been commissioned) has significantly reduced the waiting list;

– to fund hysterectomies as stand alone procedures for any patient on the waiting list for phalloplasty or metoidioplasty;

– to instruct the NHS to apologise for not notifying patients about the situation in a timely manner and for failing to fulfil their duty of care to those impacted.

Speaking of his own personal distress, Keelin McCoy, a trans man who is waiting for surgery to fix a painful complication, said:

“I’ve been waiting for stage three for two years. I didn’t consent to this amount of time, especially given the fact I was given an estimate of 6 months as a maximum. I need corrective surgery and until this is done I’m on pain medication as I suffer from bladder spasms hourly. I feel the NHS has completely failed me and thousands of others who are stuck in limbo, some of which can’t deal with this mentally, and the mere thought that fellow friends have contemplated suicide all due to failings in the NHS to negotiate a deal is disgusting beyond belief.”

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A copy of the letter, due to be delivered at 2pm today (2 September 2021) to the offices of Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care of the United Kingdom, is attached.

It is also being passed to:

Mr Edward Argar, Health minister

Ms Nadine Dorries, Mental health minister

Crispin Blunt, MP and Chair of All Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT+ Rights

Mr Jonathan Ashworth, Labour Shadow Health

Munira Wilson, Liberal Democrat Shadow Health

Caroline Lucas, MP (Green Party)

Humza Yousaf, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care (Scotland/SNP)

Pam Duncan-Glancy, MSP (Labour)

Patrick Harvie, MSP (Green)

Eluned Morgan, Minister for Health and Social Services in the Welsh Government (Labour)

Lynne Neagle, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services in the Welsh Government (Labour)

Hannah Blythin, MS (Labour)

Jeremy Miles MS (Labour and Co-Operative Party)

Jane Hutt, MS (Labour)

For further information on this issue, please contact TransActual’s press office: press.transactualuk@gmail.com