The NHS is a great concept, I can’t imagine having to pay either for insurance or for hospital visits, just to have health care. I’m grateful for the NHS because if it didn’t exist my family would be in a great deal of debt because of my mum’s brain surgery, a very expensive procedure. All things considered, it’s a pretty amazing part of the UK, however, my experience with the NHS when transitioning has been nothing but terrible.
It’s taken me a while to write about this, for a number of reasons. Mostly was that I thought eventually the NHS would help me see my hormones through, after having nearly 2 years worth of appointments with them, however, this has not occurred. Every doctor that I have seen has not explained the situation to me, I may not have asked the right questions, I was very nervous at every appointment and I did the best I could. I want to write about my experience so that others can avoid it, or learn from it at least.
I’ve covered all of my appointments on this blog which you can refer back to.
In Wales, they first refer you to a psychiatrist, Step 1 – Diagnosis. I felt like I was finally getting somewhere, the Doctor was brilliant, I had to answer a few personal questions and then I was diagnosed with gender dysphoria – a step in the right direction. I knew at this point that this was going to be a long haul.
Next, I was to see a gender specialist, Step 2 – Ok For Hormones. It was a very short visit, the Doctor said that she saw no problems with me having hormones, which felt like such as relief, I had waited months for this appointment, if I remember rightly, it had been 8 months since my visit to the psychiatrist. I was to be referred to the endocrinologist, which is where all the problems began to unfold.
Step 3 – Bloods. I should have known there was something wrong when I checked myself into the outpatient department for the appointment and they had an address listed for me from 14 years ago. One of the first things the Doctor said to me was that he wasn’t a professional, that he didn’t understand why I was referred to him, but that it wasn’t a waste of a trip because he was an endocrinologist and he could check my blood. It turns out I had been referred to the wrong doctor because of the wrong address, this hospital was the closest to my old address. He then asked me if I could travel every week for treatment. I live in Southampton for University, which is 120 miles away from my hometown, which is about 20 miles away from the hospital I would need to get to every week. I asked if it were possible for me to receive treatment in Southampton, he said he would try, but I didn’t believe that.
I got the phone call that my blood was okay and that I should make an appointment with him to discuss treatment. There was no mention of Southampton at all, so I told the receptionist I would try and find a pathway for myself, probably the hardest thing I’ve tried to do in my transition, and maybe it can be considered a big mistake, but I had to try. I promised myself that I wouldn’t let my transition be a consideration or a deciding factor when choosing my University, especially one that was quite far away. I saw my GP in Southampton, he said he would be happy to give me testosterone injections if he was authorised to do so. I had around 3 appointments with him trying to figure out how to get this done, he wrote to the gender Doctor I had seen, I rang the endocrinologist various times, I wrote to him. I waited weeks, months. To find out that no one could give the go ahead for my GP to give me hormones. My GP told me to transfer back to Wales and have my treatment there, to which I broke down, I had held everything together for so long and I felt like it all came pouring out. But I picked myself up again, I asked the endocrinologist’s receptionist if I could have the appointment to discuss the treatment, with a Dr Adlan, he was the Doctor in the area who specialised in this, who is treating people like me, the doctor I was supposed to have seen. I accepted the fact I would have to travel and waited to hear back. When I rang to check up on the situation the receptionist told me that Dr Adlan had written me a letter which would be in the post soon. I was so excited, this was to be my appointment letter, finally, I would be on testosterone. My first appointment was in 2015, it had to be soon, I felt as if I couldn’t cope anymore, that if I didn’t have a light at the end of the tunnel that I would falter.
The letter came, it wasn’t an appointment. It was practically a dismissal. Dr Adlan told me to see my GP from my hometown, to get her to refer me to a Gender Clinic. So every appointment that I had had for the last 2 years had all been for nothing, and I would be placed on a 2-year waiting list for an NHS Gender Clinic that I could have been referred to when I first went to my GP seeking help. Reading that letter I felt as if I was going to break completely.
My mum had offered from the beginning to go to a private Gender Clinic so I could be seen sooner. I wish I had listened, I didn’t want her to have to pay, I didn’t have a job at the time and I wanted to be able to do it by myself. This stressful experience with the NHS has led me to contact a private Gender Clinic, Gender Care, in London. A friend of mine who began transitioning December of 2016, just gone, had an appointment with them and had his first shot of testosterone last week. If this doesn’t work I don’t know what I’ll do.