Parents hit out at NHS 20-year waiting list for transgender patients at inquest for daughter, 20, who killed herself after waiting 1,023 days to be seen at controversial Tavistock Clinic
- Coroner said transgender services ‘underfunded and insufficiently resourced’
- Parents slammed 20-year-wait for transgender people requesting treatment
- For help, call Samaritans for free on 116 123 or visit samaritans.org
The parents of a transgender woman who tragically took her own life have hit out at the long NHS waiting times for trans patients, as it was revealed that people could wait 20 years for an appointment for gender reassignment.
An inquest in Hove, Sussex, into the death of transgender woman Alice Litman, heard there are currently more than 13,000 people on the waiting list for a first appointment at the Tavistock Centre’s Gender Identity Clinic (GIC).
The hearing was told the rising numbers of transgender patients meant that someone presenting for treatment today would have to wait more than 20 years to be seen.
Dr James Barrett, director of the Tavistock Centre said long waiting lists was a national issue and that clinics across the globe were seeing an increase in demand for care.
Alice Litman (pictured) who had waited nearly three years to discuss transitioning before tragically taking her own life
Alice (pictured) had been referred for gender-affirming healthcare in August 2019 but was still waiting for an initial consultation at the Tavistock Centre in London when she died
He said: ‘There are very very many people with remarkably similar situations to Alice.
‘The size of the population we’re dealing with, the services aren’t big enough.’
The inquest at Sussex County Cricket Ground in Hove heard Alice, of Leatherhead, Surrey had suffered from anxiety and low moods and as a teenager.
She had been referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) where she had taken part in group therapy.
In September 2018 Alice told her sister, Kate, that she felt she wanted to live her life as a woman.
She had an appointment with a GP where she told the doctor about her gender identity problems.
Her mother, Dr Caroline Litman, a former NHS psychiatrist, told the inquest the doctor suggested a ‘watch and wait’ approach and did not make a referral to the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS).
It wasn’t until after her first suicide attempt in June 2019 that Alice was finally referred for treatment at GIDS.
When she turned 18 in February 2020 the referral was transferred to the adult Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) at the Tavistock Clinic.
Attending the inquest with Dr Litman were Alice’s father, Peter and brother and sister, Harvey and Kate.
Outside court, the family said the lack of treatment on for transgender patients and the long waiting lists on the NHS amounted to ‘transphobia’.
Dr Litman said: ‘We believe the rulings we are going to hear are going to bring about much-needed change throughout the NHS and all systems involved in the care of Trans people in part we are delighted the extent of the wait list has finally been acknowledged.
‘My daughter was failed by the NHS and I don’t want other parents to lose their daughter.’
Coroner Sarah Clarke also said the NHS is not equipped to deal with the rising needs of transgender patients in Britain.
Ms Clarke said the services available to the transgender community in this country were ‘underfunded and insufficiently resourced’.
She added that the training of people caring for transgender patients, the lack of mental healthcare and the long waiting lists for treatment all need to be examined.
Her comments came after an inquest heard a transgender woman killed herself after spending almost three years on a waiting list.
Pictures show Alice as a child with father, Peter. The family continued to try and find private gender care for Alice but on a visit home in Easter 2022
Alice Litman, 20, killed herself in May 2022 after spending 1,023 days on a waiting list.
She had been referred for gender-affirming healthcare in August 2019 but was still waiting for an initial consultation at the Tavistock Centre in London when she died.
Due to the severe delays in referral, her family paid for private counselling to help support her mentally.
They also sought help from GenderGP – a private service aimed at supporting transgender patients – and Alice began taking cross-sex hormone therapy.
Coroner Sarah Clarke said the services available to the transgender community in this country were ‘underfunded and insufficiently resourced’. (Pictured, family photo of Alice Litman, 20)
In September 2018 Alice told her sister, Kate, that she felt she wanted to live her life as a woman and went for an appointment with another GP where she told the doctor about her gender identity problems
However, the hearing was told the outbreak of the Covid pandemic made seeking further treatment or surgery impossible.
Dr Litman said: ‘Lockdown was another barrier to Alice getting appropriate care.’
In September 2021 Alice moved from her family home in Surrey to Brighton where she lived with a close friend.
The family continued to try and find private gender care for Alice but were told that rising numbers on NHS waiting lists had left private providers swamped.
Alice was found suffering from multiple injuries on the Undercliff Walk, near Roedean School in Brighton in the early hours of May 26.
The coroner said she would be considering writing a Prevention of Future Deaths Report.
Alice with her mother, Caroline. Despite the suicide attempts in June and December 2019 she still struggled to receive the gender care and mental health support she needed, an inquest heard
Ms Clarke said: ‘This is an important inquest. Some of the issues raised are extremely important in today’s society not just here in Brighton and Hove but across the world.
‘It’s not about apportioning blame. One of the most difficult aspects is detaching from the emotion involved.
‘All of these services are underfunded and insufficiently resourced for the level of need in our society.’
She said she wanted to examine the knowledge and training offered to those caring for transgender patients, the lack of provision of mental healthcare and the long waiting lists.
She adjourned the hearing for two weeks but added she would be making a narrative finding of the death of Alice.
Father, Peter Litman, said: ‘To know something is there and not do something about it is an act of aggression. It’s very, very sad.’
Dr Litman said: ‘Transgender people are hung out to dry. Alice was a smart, intelligent young person and she could see that no one was taking care of her, that no one cared. What does a 20-year wait list say about how important you are?’
For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details
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