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Trans people enduring up to a three-year wait to be seen by NHS gender identity clinics, figures show

The BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme has found that long waiting times are forcing trans people in the UK to self-medicate from unregulated sources.

By Will Stroude

Transgender people in some parts of the UK are enduring more than a two-year wait to see an NHS specialist at a gender identity clinic, new figures show.

A Freedom of Information request indicated that some trans people in parts of the UK are waiting up to three years to be seen by a specialist following their initial referral, BBC News reports.

Gender identity clinics in Belfast, Nottinghamshire and Nortumberland reported the longest maximum wait times, at 166 weeks, 145 weeks and 127 weeks respectively.

The shortest maximum wait time was reported in the Scottish Highlands, at 32 weeks.

In England, the target waiting time is just 18 weeks.

The BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme warned that some trans people are self-medicating using unregulated hormones bought from the internet because of long NHS waits.

One, law student Kara, explained that she had begun buying the hormone oestrogen online last dummer after being on an NHS waiting list for two years.

“I don’t know anything about the tablets [that I buy] specifically, if they are what they say they are,” she said. “So it’s kind of a guessing game with your life.”

Kara, who said she was “absolutely petrified” of using medication from an unregulated source, added: “I was so low before, it basically felt like a choice between suicide or self-medicating, because I couldn’t deal with the thought of further masculisation.”

NHS England told the BBC in a statement that they were increasing investment in gender identity services after seeing increased demand in recent years.

“As more people feel able to seek support and treatment, the demand for gender identity services has greatly increased, and in recent years we’ve increased investment to respond to the rising demand, with staff working hard to support patients to get the right care as quickly as possible”, a spokesperson said.

“From the spring a new service will be piloted in London that will increase capacity in gender identity services.”