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Symposium to tackle issues faced by transgender patients

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An “urgent” symposium on the problems faced by transgender people when using health and care services is to be held by NHS England today to try and tackle issues including discrimination and reduced access.

Representatives from bodies including the Royal College of Nursing, Department of Health, and the Care Quality Commission, along with patients and transgender equality organisations will come together later today in London to discuss what action can be taken.

The Gender Identity Symposium represents the first time that organisations with responsibilities for regulation, professional standards, workforce development and quality assurance will have met to discuss the care experienced by people requiring gender identity services.

“Patients have told us that there is an urgent need for action to improve their experience of health services across the board”

Barbara Hakin

NHS England said recent work with transgender communities had confirmed these patients have reduced access to mainstream NHS services, because they are not personalised to suit individuals.

Other problems include discrimination by healthcare professionals towards transgender people and the lack of awareness that these patients may have about their health needs.

Barbara Hakin, director of commissioning operations for NHS England, said: “Patients have told us that there is an urgent need for action to improve their experience of health services across the board.

“It is vital that the treatment of these individuals is not seen as a ‘specialist’ issue”

Barbara Hakin

“It is vital that the treatment of these individuals is not seen as a ‘specialist’ issue, and that patients are treated with dignity and respect.”

She added: “We are hopeful that bringing together patient and professional representatives in this way will help us secure a joint commitment and a plan to address the inequalities that these patients face.”

Suzanna Hopwood, member of the Gender Identity Services stakeholder group, said there was still a “significant lack of awareness” across the health system about transgender issues and hoped the meeting tomorrow would start to address this.

She said: “Many of these organisations have a statutory duty within the health and social care system to raise standards and quality of care.

“That includes ensuring that transgender and non-binary patients are treated with dignity and respect, whether they are accessing specialist gender identity services, or seeking care for a broken arm,” she added.

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