Trans people let down by ‘extraordinarily long’ NHS waiting lists

Transgender people are being let down by “extraordinarily long” NHS waiting lists, which are causing a “travesty” of self-harm and suicide, an inquest heard.

Alice Litman, 20, had been waiting to receive gender affirming healthcare for 1,023 days when she died on May 26 2022 in Brighton, the family said, ahead of her inquest which began on Monday.

Ms Litman, originally from Surrey, was referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and to the Community Mental Health Recovery Service (CMHRS) before she turned 18.

But her mother told the inquest in Sussex County Cricket Ground, Hove, on Monday that she was “cast out of care” when she turned 18 because she did not meet the threshold for adult intervention – despite having attempted to end her life on two occasions.

Alice Litman Inquest
Alice Litman had been waiting to receive gender affirming healthcare for 1,023 days when she died, her family has said (Family handout/PA)

In a statement read out in court on Tuesday, Michael Webberley, co-founder of Gender GP who met Ms Litman in September 2019, said her parents reached out to him after she was referred to the Tavistock and Portman Foundation because the waiting list there was too long.

He said: “We see so many people let down by the NHS.

“The extraordinarily long waiting list is causing severe mental health rates for trans people.

“The unacceptable suicide and self-harm rates in this group is a travesty.”

He added that Ms Litman’s death was “preventable” and that the waiting list for transgender people to receive treatment should be “days and weeks – not decades”.

It comes after Ms Litman’s mother, Dr Caroline Litman, said in a statement on Monday that her daughter’s death could have been avoided with “access to the right support”.

The court heard Ms Litman first told her sister she felt she was a woman in September 2018.

She went to see a GP about her gender identity later in 2018 – an experience which Mr Webberley said “did not go well”.

Dr James Barrett, of the Tavistock and Portman Foundation Trust, told the inquest on Tuesday that they treated patients who were initially referred to them five years ago, while waiting lists at the Northamptonshire Gender Identity Clinic were six years long and rising according to the latest figures.

He added that young people moving from child to adult psychiatric services faced problems “across the board” and not just in the transgender community.

Dr Barrett said: “The threshold to be seen by adult mental health services is very high.”

Alice Litman
Ms Litman struggled to gain access to support, her family said (Family handout/PA)

Dr Litman told the court on Monday: “I did not feel that CAMHS took Alice’s problems seriously enough.

“The CAMHS nursing team effectively acted as gatekeepers, making it very hard for Alice to access support that she clearly needed and would not have received had it not been for intervention from her GP at our insistence.”

She added: “Alice was suddenly cast out of care because she did not meet the adult threshold for intervention, despite having been identified as needing support the week before.

“The sudden switch between services (and thresholds for support) on the day she turned 18 left her abandoned at a moment when she particularly needed help.”

The inquest continues.