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Why should you complain about your GP?

If you’re being messed about by your GP; if your GP is not taking you seriously or is failing to provide care you are entitled to; then our message is simple: complain! Complain loud. Complain long. And do not let go. Because trans healthcare in the UK is a disgrace. But medical practitioners get away with abysmal because people do not think it worth the while to complain.

Why? Because nothing ever happens to trans-hostile GPs. But do you know why nothing ever happens to them? Because no-one complains!

by jane fae

Complaining about General Practice

If you’re being messed about by your GP; if your GP is not taking you seriously or is failing to provide care you are entitled to; then our message is simple: complain! Complain loud. Complain long. And do not let go. Because trans healthcare in the UK is a disgrace. But medical practitioners get away with abysmal things because people do not think it worth the while to complain.

Why? Because nothing ever happens to trans-hostile GPs. But do you know why nothing ever happens to them? Because no-one complains!

Over the last couple of years, trans-related healthcare in the UK has fallen off a cliff. It wasn’t good before. But a combination of pandemic (leading to ludicrous backlogs in the Gender Identity Services) and an excess of caution by GPs wary of being sued by someone, anyone, in the wake of the Keira Bell case is making life even harder for trans people.

Stay focused

It is probably not a useful use of your complaining muscle taking on your GP for the failings of specialist services. But there are things that you are entitled to as a trans patient – from bridging prescriptions, to hormone testing, to just general support – and if you are not getting that, then you need to make it clear you will not take such treatment (or possibly LACK of treatment) lying down.

NHS staff should understand that we love them. But that love is not, can never be unconditional. “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” And if you do not prick us, when it is time for hormone shots or blockers, do we not have the right to get angry? To demand better?

 

Use complaints processes

This WAS going to be a detailed description of all the ways in which you can make a complaint about your GP. We stress WAS. Because there is some good guidance out there, by none other than the NHS. So, in the interests of not duplicating effort, we are going to suggest you make the NHS guidance your first port of call.

Note – please note – that it advocates a process of escalation. Do not, at the first sign of difficulty, go in all guns blazing. Because sometimes the issue is a simple lack of awareness of what is permitted, or of process. If it is more, you will find out soon enough: because your response to the politest of inquiries is likely to be met with defensiveness and deflection.

Do not be put off. Those two – the twin D’s of dismissal – are a part of the problem. If your practice, or provider or whoever else is in the loop seek to fob you off, keep going.

Also, while the NHS does not recommend it, we do suggest you consider raising the matter with the General Medical Council. They don’t like it …

That is, GP’s don’t like it, because it looks bad on their records. And the GMC don’t like it and in general will set the bar for proof high. They are very forthright in owning that only a small proportion of cases will meet their criterion for upholding. But do it anyway.

Because if medical staff or GPs are not treating you properly, the chances are they are not treating other trans people properly. That, no matter what the reason, is malpractice. And, as I wrote about in Transition Denied, the story of a young trans woman who faced many obstacles, including a refusal by her GP to refer her to the Gender Identity Service, can have fatal consequences.

 

We can help

Who should you complain about? Bottom line: anyone who is not providing you with the same level of medical support as a cis person would get. Also, in respect of trans-specific services, anyone who is ignoring guidelines for any reason.

We’d also broaden the category out to GPs who are not your GP but who are out on social media peddling – or liking – transphobic nonsense. GPs like the absolute charmer who gave a thumbs up to the outright transphobic lie that the neo-vagina is an “open wound” requiring daily lifelong dilation to maintain it.

Such a GP is a menace in respect of trans people and should not be allowed within a thousand yards of a trans patient. Because they appear to have no clue as to what they are talking about and are therefore not safe to be dealing with trans folk.

If you are still not sure, check out the growing resource base that TransActual has at its disposal, as well as the training we provide. These are both oriented towards explaining what you are entitled to from your GP. And while we do not provide a formal complaining resource, we are happy to advise and support.

We hope you won’t need to complain, ever. But if you do, do not hold back. You owe it to yourself! You owe it, too, to every trans person who might want to use the service after you.


Picture of jane fae
jane fae, writer, occasional stand-up and professional nuisance. Also director of TransActual and chair of Trans Media Watch.