5+ years delay at Northern Ireland gender clinic as referrals drop

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The health service in Northern Ireland is continuing to fail trans patients in the country with the number of referrals to the gender clinic dropping, waiting lists growing, and under-18s being denied blockers.

brackenburn clinic
Th Brackenburn Clinic, located in on the outskirts of South Belfast at Knockbracken Healthcare Park

The Belfast Telegraph have published figures they obtained from Northern Ireland’s only gender clinic. The Brackenburn Clinic have long blamed the volume of referrals they receive as a reason for their excessive waiting lists, but the figures tell a very different story.

Over the past five years, only 1,066 people have been referred to the clinic, 950 of whom were accepted, with 258 under 18 at the time who were referred to the Knowing Our Identity (KOI) unit.

There is no pathway to surgery through KOI however, since 2014, they are meant to be able to prescribe blockers and hormones. In 2020 Northern Ireland’s Ulster Unionist Health Secretary, Robin Swann, put an end to that, blaming “limited adult gender provision with growing waiting lists” for his decision.

As a result, only 11 of those 258 under 18s have been given access to hormones.

The waiting list time for a first appointment on the adult list is now five years and four months. When I started my transition, almost 10 years ago, I had to wait nine months for my first appointment.

In their exclusive, the Telegraph found that there were an average of 62 referrals each year, 52 of whom were accepted for the waiting list.

Referrals dropped by 21% in 2021/22 compared to 2017/18, but 36% fewer people were accepted.

“What is clear is that the Belfast Trust and Department of Health have consistently failed trans and non-binary people and their families,” LGBT+ campaigner John O’Doherty told the Belfast Telegraph.

“Trans and non-binary people have a right to patient-centred non-directive provision of care based on their individual needs.

“A joined-up strategic response must be developed for this unmet need so that trans people and their families can have confidence in the health service.”

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