Jack Rowe for GAY TIMES

Extensive healthcare wait times in the UK are damaging trans people’s mental health, a groundbreaking survey has found.

Content warning: This story includes topics that could make some readers uncomfortable.

More than 1,000 trans people were asked about their experiences of transition healthcare by advocacy group TransActual.

Only 4.5% of those surveyed said that their mental health had not been negatively impacted by waiting for hormone replacement therapy, and 83.8% said it had been negatively impacted by waiting for surgery.

This included frequent anecdotes about self harm and suicidal ideation related to dysphoria, misgendering and hate crimes, all of which are worsened by a lack of timely access to transition care.

The survey also revealed that the majority of respondents (85.2%) referred to NHS gender services after 2017 had yet to be seen by the service.

NHS guidelines say that the maximum wait for non-urgent, consultant-led treatment in England should be 18 weeks, and patients have a “legal right” to be seen within this time period.

This is reflected in the majority of survey respondents accessing transition medical care through private service providers, with 54% using them for hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

“The picture drawn is one of pain, distress and heartbreak, as trans people increasingly find their access to life-saving treatment blocked for a host of bad reasons,” said Chay Brown, Director of Operations for TransActual.

“These include lack of resource, transphobic practitioners, and an officious and bureaucratic system of gate-keeping that seems designed around disbelieving trans people, far more than enabling very necessary treatment.”

In 2015, the Commons Select Committee on Women and Equalities stated: “The NHS is letting down trans people: it is failing in its legal duty under the Equality Act”, and this survey’s results suggest little has changed.

You can read the full report here.