There have been a couple more answers from Leeds GIC in response to Freedom of Information requests. The first is the “Information for Referrers” leaflet (PDF Link) which details what steps GPs should take before passing someone on to the service. We already suspected the most interesting part of this, specifically: “The GP would need to provide an up to date physical examination report…In addition to the physical examination an examination of the sexual characteristics would be highly desirable.“. I struggle to see how a physical examination of “sexual characteristics” at this stage can be justified, particularly when by a GP who is not going to have the experience to do this sensitively. The only time I had any form of physical examinations were by the surgeon and electrologist, which despite being rather necessary was still, in the case of the surgeon’s visit, rather upsetting.
Most likely the main effect of this is just going to end up being unnecessarily upsetting people trying to access the service. Luckily, I’ve heard of several people that have refused the physical exam and they’ve still been able to get a referral, so this aspect appears not always to be adhered to. It’s inclusion in the referrers leaflet means people that don’t need it or want it may still end up having it however, because they feel bullied into it to access essential medical care.
One sensible aspect is getting the GP to carry out the blood tests before referral. This would hopefully cut down on delays at the GIC due to needing to go away and come back for a test, although I do not know if this is routine practice at other GICs too.
Slightly worrying is the assertion that this is a “a time-limited Pathway of Care for the maximum of three-year duration“. [sic] Having not heard of anyone being discharged from the clinic after three years while still mid-transition, I assume this is not actually enforced.
The other response was asking who had been involved in an FoI response and some rather inaccurate content on their web site, which has since been updated. In it, they start getting defensive about their policies, something I have not seen before in an FoI response. Here’s what they said:
Specifically, our Care Pathway follows the stages laid down within The Harry Benjamin International Standards of Care (this differs from the WPATH guidance), as we believe that hormone treatment is best undertaken after real life experience has begun to ensure that, possibly irreversible hormone treatment is not undertaken without there being a completely coordinated comprehensive care approach which has the ability to meet the changing needs of our service users flexibly and safely. This is paramount to a positive outcome.
Interestingly, they are explicitly rejecting the latest version of the WPATH Standards of Care with this response and reinforcing their view that hormones should only be prescribed after going “full time”. I have no idea if Leeds doctors have ever actually tried anything like talking to their patients, but going full-time is far more irreversible than hormones. Just because it’s social and not chemical/biological does not lessen it’s impact if you are treating the person as a whole.
I have not seen any studies of this, but I also suspect that those going full time before hormones are hugely more at risk of social impacts such as job loss and violence due to not “passing”.