On Thursday 25th August, West London Mental Health Trust (WLMHA), the NHS Trust that hosts my full-time employer, Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic, issued a statement on its website. Entitled The future of the Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic, it talked of the Trust’s pride at having been at the forefront of developing gender services and the challenge of ever-rising numbers of referrals, concluding:
However, as WLMHT moves forward it is necessary to refocus the services that we provide. The Board has made a decision that the medium-term strategic focus for the Trust will be to develop mental health services, physical care and integration between the two.
As a result, the Trust has come to the conclusion that patients requiring gender identity services would be better served in the long term by another provider, and has therefore served notice on our contract to NHS England.
Acknowledging the alarm this would create in an already stressed, often desperate group of people, WLMHT attempted reassurance: services would not be stopping, a suitable alternative provider would be found as soon as possible, staffing levels would not be reduced and patients would not have to restart their treatment again. Handover to a new provider would be made as seamless as possible, and disruption would be kept to an absolute minimum.
There was, arguably, some degree of ambiguity to the statement in that it suggested the timescale for a new provider would be “at least six months” and that patients from London and the South East would not be left without a service “or have to travel much further”, combining to give the spurious impression of a mysterious unnamed provider already waiting in the wings, ready to spirit the clinic off to a new location within half a year. In specifying London and the South East, it left hanging, by omission, the question of service provision to trans and non-binary people in other parts of England and, particularly, to Wales.