GenderGP are unable to provide the thousands of transgender patients they serve with prescriptions as the result of negative press attention, the international online health service announced Wednesday.
GenderGP’s is an online healthcare service for transgender patients. Their services include confidential advice, surgical referrals, counselling, gender dysphoria diagnosis, blood tests, post-op advice, advice for patents’ general practitioners, help with legal documents and prescription medication. Their team includes certified doctors, counsellors and psychotherapists from the UK, Europe, the US and Egypt, according to a statement from the service. They work with the patient’s doctor as well as operate as an independent service to make healthcare as affordable and extensive as possible. Medication can also be prescribed by their family doctor, under a shared care agreement, or via a private prescription. The service also hosts their own podcast covering aspects of the trans community while chatting with experts in the field.
UK newspapers ran pieces about the service implying that it poses an unspecified risk to children and that bypassing the National Health Service was somehow breaking the rules. The articles made no mention of why people might make use of the service, such as how wait times for an appointment to start the transition process can take up to five years for some patients.
Clear Chemist, the service’s pharmaceutical supplier, are unable to fulfil the prescriptions for patients of GenderGP. They were working within UK government guidelines, according to GenderGP. In fact, all of the pharmacies recommended by the service operate within the required regulations of their country according to their statement. Pharmacy Regulator enforced the changes, according to GenderGP.
GenderGP is “acutely aware of the distress this is causing our patients” and are currently negotiating with alternative partner pharmacies to make sure that the healthcare of their patients are not affected. The service as a whole will still run and operate in the meantime.
“We believe it is discriminatory that trans people trying to access healthcare are being treated as second class citizens,” the service said.
GenderGP was founded by Dr. Helen Webberley in 2015 and stood as an alternative for many transgender people to the NHS for medically transitioning. Hundreds of transgender patients navigating the NHS told The Guardian that their general practitioners not only were not adequately trained to help them but erroneously referred to patients to mental health services. Even when a patient is referred to a gender identity clinic for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria so they can begin the transition process, wait times can last for more than two years. The GIC’s own website lists wait times averaging 33 to 36 months. Some patients have waited as long as five years for an appointment, according to interviews in a blog post from GenderGP. The long wait times are especially bad for people going through puberty, as the changes to one’s body during puberty can be irreversible.
For many transgender people, getting access to medication and treatment is literally life-saving. A study published in the medical journal Pediatrics found that transgender teenagers who underwent puberty-blocking treatment had lower odds of lifetime suicidal ideation and psychological distress than youth who did not receive access to the treatment.
Transgender Author and Journalist Laura Kate Dale writes that having a hormone prescription taken away suddenly can lead to changes reverting and “huge mental unrest.” Some may even have symptoms of menopause. There’s also a drastically increased risk of Osteoperosis.
“It’s going to be scary and traumatic for many,” Dale said.
Webberley was prevented from working as a doctor in 2017 pending an investigation by the GMC into her work with transgender patients, according to GenderGP’s statement. She has apparently waited five years for a hearing. She was convicted of operating a healthcare service without the required registration in 2018, and after that GenderGP was acquired by Harland International Ltd. Webberley still works for the service as a non-medical advisor on trans rights. The Hong Kong-based Harland International provides advocacy services to LGBT+ people worldwide.
“Any published inference that there is some kind of illegal, immoral or unethical activity being undertaken since the acquisition of GenderGP in 2018 by Harland International Ltd, will be regarded as defamatory,” said the service.
Many have expressed their displeasure of seeing medicine denied this way.
Trans Health UK, a website from a group of trans people, has a page about navigating UK Trans Healthcare. Check there for advice on working with GPs, harm reduction for self-medication and other guides.