A Sheffield trans woman fears she will “more likely die first” than receive the treatment she desperately needs from Sheffield’s gender clinic to fully transition to female.
Newly-released information has revealed that fewer than 1% of people on the trans healthcare waiting list for Sheffield’s Porterbrook Gender Identity Clinic were seen last month.
Amber, 45, made a freedom of information request that showed only eight of the 2,302 trans people on the clinic’s waiting list got appointments between 22 October and 22 November this year.
Amber said: “If I’m not going to get seen by Porterbrook in two decades, that’s a quarter of my life before I can even start living normally. Living as me. It makes life very, very pointless. I get repeated suicidal thoughts because what’s the point?”
When approached for comment on its wait times, Porterbrook clinic replied: “We provide up to date information about our waiting times on our website.”
The website says: “We are currently booking appointments for people who were referred to the service in July 2018. The longest wait time is currently 62 months as of September 2023.”
According to Amber, however, those figures are deceptive. “62 months would only be a meaningful number if they were working through the waiting list at the same rate people were being added.”
The rate of patients joining the list currently far outpaces the rate of patients being seen. In November last year, there were already 1,865 people on it. Since then, there have been 437 new patients added. At Porterbrook’s current rate of eight patients per month, it would take more than four years to just get through those newly-added patients.
Amber said the mental health toll of waiting has been severe. When she first sought trans care from Porterbrook in autumn 2021, she was suicidal. “I knew that I either needed to do something about transitioning, or I may as well kill myself,” she said.
Amber has been forced to go private for her hormone replacement therapy, the medicine she needs to lower her testosterone and increase her estrogen levels. She has been unable to receive care for the other treatments she needs, including counselling, top and bottom surgery, hair removal, and voice training to feminise her speech.
Research has found that trans people facing high wait times for gender clinic care are at greater risk of harming themselves, having suicidal thoughts, and experiencing depression.
Heather Paterson, co-chair of Sheffield LGBTQ+ Multi-Agency Network and CEO of SAYiT Sheffield, said: “We are seeing more young people presenting with increasingly severe mental health difficulties. People feel like they don’t matter, facing the black hole of never-ending waiting lists that they don’t think they will ever see the front of.”
Ms Paterson explained that many trans people feel forced to “DIY transition,” either resorting to unregulated treatments without proper supervision, or paying exorbitantly expensive private health care costs.
At Harley Street Gender Clinic, a private clinic in London, the initial consultation for trans care alone costs £575. Some trans people have felt forced to turn to online fundraising websites such as Go Fund Me to access trans healthcare.
Ms Paterson said: “Currently the conversations about trans healthcare in the UK are being dominated by people who aren’t using the services with trans voices being erased. We need to run a health service informed by the best available health information and international best practice, not a political agenda.”