New £9m framework to improve Scotland’s NHS gender identity services

The Scottish Government has released a new framework to support NHS gender identity services. It has also backed the publication with a £9 million investment, which includes £2 million from the latest Scottish Budget for 2022/23.

The NHS Gender Identity Services Strategic Action Framework aims to improve gender identity healthcare in Scotland and includes a number of goals and ‘actions’. These include: improving wait times for patients, introducing new multidisciplinary models of care, supporting people while they wait to access services, developing national standards and improving data collection.

Although published in December 2021, the framework covers 2022 – 2024. The 13-page document includes a number of commitments and strategies and focuses on ways to improve services, as well as data, research and plans for next steps and implementation.

To achieve its aims around best practice and equality of access, the government will:

  • Establish a National Gender Identity Healthcare Reference Group to oversee the implementation of commitments. The Reference Group will include people with lived experiences of using gender identity healthcare, as well as clinicians and academics.
  • Support the The National Gender Identity Clinical Network for Scotland (NGICNS) to become a National Strategic Network for gender identity healthcare, and allow it to ‘take ownership’ of improvement and planning from the Reference Group from 2024.
  • Support the review and update of the Gender Reassignment Protocol.
  • Commission Healthcare Improvement Scotland to ‘develop national standards for adult and young people’s gender identity services’.

Other goals and commitments include improved resources to support the care of trans people, opportunities for staff training, and continuing to ‘review and develop all Equality, Diversity and Inclusion training’ for all NHS Scotland staff.

Further initiatives are to collect, monitor and report ‘robust’ data on waiting times for gender identity services, and to commission a trans healthcare specific report as part of the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, NHS Lothian and Public Health Scotland national LGBT Health Needs Assessment.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Nicola Steedman said of the framework: “Referrals to gender identity services have increased over the last few years and so too have waiting times. Despite the dedication of NHS staff, we know that some people are currently waiting over three and a half years from referral to first appointment.

“This work will allow us to improve waiting times and ensure gender identity healthcare is person centred, sustainable and built on the principles of Realistic Medicine.”

Vic Valentine, Scottish Trans Alliance Manager, added: “We warmly welcome this strategic action framework, which alongside crisis funding also provides the foundations for making long lasting, significant change to gender identity healthcare that is so desperately needed.

“Trans people deserve to live happy, healthy lives, and to have access to the healthcare we need to make this possible. We look forward to contributing to work to transform these services, and in particular to the Scottish Government ensuring that trans people truly are at the heart of decisions made to do so – something that is absolutely crucial to making sure that this framework delivers on its aims.”

To find out more, read the framework in full, here.