The NHS has been threatened with legal action by the equality watchdog if it does not offer transgender patients access to fertility services before they start transitioning treatment.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it took the first step towards a judicial review by writing a pre-action letter to NHS England on Friday over the “outdated” policy that discriminates against the transgender community. Patients undergoing treatment for gender dysphoria, where individuals suffer discomfort or distress over a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity, can lose their fertility. The watchdog said they should be offered the opportunity to store their eggs or sperm, otherwise, thousands could be forced to choose between the essential medical treatment and not having their own biological children.
The NHS said the EHRC had “misplaced their fire” and pointed towards ministers being responsible for the policy. But EHRC chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said: “Our laws and our values protect those who seek treatment for gender dysphoria. “This means that where appropriate, treatment should be made available in order to ensure that access to health services is free of discrimination. “A choice between treatment for gender dysphoria and the chance to start a family is not a real choice. We have asked NHS England to reflect on the true breadth of their statutory mandate and the impact on the transgender community of these outdated policies.” Individual Clinical Commissioning Groups currently decide whether to provide the “gamete extraction and storage” to patients, but the EHRC said “many” chose not to for transgender patients. An NHS England spokesman said: “Decisions on which services are commissioned by NHS England are taken by ministers based on advice from an independently-chaired panel of health experts and patient representatives, using a process set out in primary legislation.”
Doctors have warned the NHS is at risk of collapse after Brexit, with an exodus of staff, drugs shortages and savage cuts. Four out of five medics quizzed in a poll fear for the future of the service once we leave the EU next year. There are concerns a brain drain of European NHS staff will deepen the recruitment crisis. An array of treatments, especially cancer care, could also be negatively affected. Imports of vital drugs such as insulin could be badly hit and investment in research and funding slashed. One medic said the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine survey results did not surprise him. Dr William Sapwell added: “My impression from the front line is everyone knows it’s going to be bad. It affects every little corner of the NHS. “We have recruitment and retention problems for doctors and if you put a barrier in front of seven to 10% of the workforce, it will get far worse. “It’s going to massively affect our ability to treat and detect some types of cancer. That’s the scariest part. How will Brexit affect the National Health Service once it comes into effect? “There is also a real risk we will run out of insulin.” Survey lead author Dr Kate Mandeville said: “Doctors are among the best-placed people to understand the impact of political decisions on the NHS. “On Brexit their opinion is very clear: Brexit is bad for the nation’s health.” Labour MP Dr Paul Williams said: “Last week the Health Secretary admitted the NHS is stockpiling drugs, and we know if we leave the European Medicines Agency we will join the back of the queue for new drugs.” The British Medical Association has called for the public to have a say on the terms of the final Brexit deal. Dr Andrew Dearden, of the BMA, said: “Doctors are worried Brexit could seriously undermine the healthcare.” The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, also found 79% of doctors voted Remain. The Department of Health and Social Care said: “We have continued to work closely with the EU to ensure minimal disruption to the NHS.” Half of Brits want second vote… with choice to stay put Half of Britons yesterday said they would now support a second EU referendum. An online poll of 1,466 Sky customers found 50% wanted another vote with three options – supporting the final deal, leaving without a deal, or staying in the EU. But 45% voted against and No10 insisted there would be no referendum. Eloise Todd has insisted that a second referendum vote is needed. Best for Britain chief executive Eloise Todd said: “The public are tired of being spoken for. They don’t want a deal full of concessions, or a nightmare no deal. It’s crucial to have a people’s vote with the option to stay in the EU.” Tory infighting over Brexit continued yesterday. One Cabinet source said of Theresa May’s Chequers plan: “It is a kamikaze approach to no deal. It’s chaos.” The Tories yesterday denied claims the Army was on standby to hand out food if a doomsday no-deal Brexit happens. Lack of immigration policy risks creating a bad vacuum Theresa May’s failure to outline a post-Brexit immigration policy has created a dangerous vacuum, MPs warn today. The Commons Home Affairs Committee is urging the Government to set out plans for who will be allowed to come to the UK. Chairwoman Yvette Cooper said: “Immigration was one of the central issues during the referendum and it divided the country, but sadly there has been no attempt by the Government to hold any kind of sensible debate on it since. Yvette Cooper has criticised the Government for not addressing immigration which was thought to be behind the Brexit vote “That is disappointing and it has left a vacuum and it’s really important that people don’t exploit that again. “Those who exploited concerns over immigration during the referendum need to be more responsible when it is debated in the run-up to the final deal.”