The UK must “be prepared” for more Britons to question their gender in the coming years. An NHS health boss has said that he believes up to three per cent of the population will contact transgender health services in the future.
James Palmer, the medical director for specialized services at NHS England, said at a conference on Monday that the expansion and improvement of NHS gender health services could cause demand to “accelerate”.
“We’ve got to be prepared to start thinking about designing a healthcare service that will allow somewhere around one to three per cent of the population at some point in their lives having a discussion about their gender. Referrals to adult services have increased by 240 per cent over the last five year period,” he said.
Based on current estimates, 1.97million people across the UK would be using gender identity services. Roughly 1.6million of those would reside in England.
Palmer added that no other specialists have seen such recent growth in demand quite like the gender health services. “There are currently 7,500 adults waiting for an appointment with our services. No other specialist service has seen this growth, anywhere near. As a result there is absolutely not sufficient capacity in the system.”
Palmer said that he thought such growth was “a good thing” that “people out there that want to explore their gender.”
The former consultant neurosurgeon added: “The fact that it’s in the younger age group has got to be a good thing. For a young adult, to be able to come forward, to seek that expertise, earlier [rather] than much much later in life, that’s got to be a good thing.”
Experts also said that the age of those approaching gender health services is dropping. In one case study concerning the Nottingham gender clinic, which treats people aged 17 and over, the average age of patients referred to the service had dropped from 40 when it opened in 1998 to just over 20 currently.
Dr Polly Carmichael, the clinical director of the gender identity development service at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust said the organization had experienced an “unprecedented” 100 per cent increase in referrals between 2015 and 2016.
Dr Carmichael said that data showed that children who were referred to the service before puberty were less likely to go on to have physical treatment later in life. Children cannot be given cross-sex hormones at the clinic until the age of 16 but may be given puberty blockers which delay the onset of puberty.
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