Training guide ‘pushed GPs to endorse gender swaps’ The Sunday Times 03.02.19

The original article is here.

The professional body for family doctors has dropped a course provided by a transgender activist charity because GPs felt it pushed them to guide patients towards gender reassignment.

The course on gender variance, which the Royal College of General Practitioners had hosted on its website since 2015, has been withdrawn.

The college’s decision represents a significant response by the medical establishment at a time of growing disquiet about the surging number of children who are transitioning.

Dr Jonathan Leach, honorary secretary, said the online module, developed and paid for by the Gender Identity Research and Education Society (Gires) “risked creating unrealistic expectations for patients regarding the role of the GP in initiating treatment”.

He added: “We understand that access to specialist gender reassignment services in the NHS is inadequate, and that this is incredibly frustrating for trans patients and their families.

“But GPs should not have to bear the brunt of poor access to specialist services by being put in a position where they are being asked to prescribe treatment that they are not trained to prescribe or monitor safely without expert support.”

Gires said it developed the course to help GPs assessing young trans people and adults. Gires paid the college £7,837 to host the course on its website.

But the two fell out after the college made changes to the course without informing Gires. The college objected to the charity Mermaids, which supports transgender children and their families, being recommended for referrals, saying: “Delete Mermaids from the list of people to use for support and just use Gires. Mermaids have become very controversial.”

Mermaids advised the makers of the ITV drama Butterfly, which starred Anna Friel as a mother whose son, Max, identifies as a girl from a young age. The drama was criticised as an “advert” by the pressure group Transgender Trend, which is alarmed by the growing number of children changing gender. The Big Lottery Fund is reviewing a decision to grant £500,000 to Mermaids.

The college said it was simply trying to protect GPs from feeling that they were under pressure to prescribe hormones to trans patients, and that some GPs lacked expertise in such a complex area.

“It is also important that we only prescribe if we are happy that safe monitoring is in place,” its documents warn.

It said many GPs might have just one or two patients with gender dysphoria, others none. “We are aware of some GPs who have felt so uneasy that they have declined to prescribe,” the college added.

Gires, which shapes public attitudes with factsheets for schools, said it “could not agree to changes made in direct contravention of NHS and General Medical Council guidelines, and give GPs excuses to deny access to healthcare for transgender people”.

Gires maintains it is “becoming ever more apparent that 5% of the population [or 3.3m people] are gender-diverse”. By contrast the Government Equalities Office estimates that 200,000 to 500,000 people are defined under the term “trans”.

@nicholashellen