Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services
Recent reports in the media have understandably caused concern among service users about progress with our plans to improve access to gender identity services in Wales. I remain committed to the plans to improve services and we are working closely with the NHS to deliver on our commitments.
I published a written statement in August 2017 referring to two components of the planned improvements, which were agreed by the All-Wales Gender Identity Partnership Group (AWGIPG). Both components are essential in order to provide the full pathway of care for patients requiring long term hormone therapy, so that most patients’ healthcare needs can be provided within Wales. The Welsh Government is providing funding for a project lead within the NHS to co-ordinate the improvements to gender identity services.
Firstly, the establishment of the specialist ‘Welsh Gender Team’ (WGT) will allow patients to be assessed and begin treatment, if needed, here in Wales. This would reduce both the distances to travel and, over time, the waiting times people in Wales currently experience before beginning treatment.
The WGT will be a multidisciplinary service based initially in Cardiff. Cardiff and Vale University Health Board has been working to plan the new service and we are expecting the business case to be finalised within the coming weeks.
A number of skilled staff will be required to join the WGT and they will need further specialist training. The project team is working with current providers of gender identity services to ensure the new team has the skills needed to provide this service.
The project team is also working with existing service providers to determine a process so that patients currently on waiting lists for treatment can be transferred to the WGT. The new service anticipates seeing patients from this spring, subject to the recruitment of staff with the appropriate skills and managing the impact of their recruitment on other essential services.
The Welsh Gender Team will provide clinical support to the other main component, a small network of GPs across Wales with a specialist interest in gender identity treatment. The Welsh Government and NHS representatives have been in discussions with the General Practitioners’ Committee (GPC) Wales in recent months on a model for the primary care service.
Welsh Government officials most recently met with GPC Wales and RCGP (Royal College of General Practitioners) Wales on 29 January. It was agreed an interim model for primary care be put in place to meet the needs of patients in the short term.
A small number of appropriately trained GPs will provide primary care to patients with gender dysphoria, under the guidance of a gender identity specialist clinician. Where a patient’s registered GP has not undertaken training to provide long term hormone therapy, the GP will be able to refer patients to one of the specially trained GPs. However, the new model will aim to ensure patients currently receiving long term care from their GP, who is confident in doing so, can continue.
The AWGIPG will continue to keep service user representatives updated on these changes through regular updates.
As with all NHS Wales patients, I feel strongly that transgender people should be able to have their healthcare needs met as close to home as possible. All parties remain committed to transgender care, in both primary and secondary care.