Latest news (8th May 2014) on payment changes the requirement for prescriptions is on this update blog post.
Latest news (10th December 2014) on the closure of two of IHP’s sites is on this blog post.
Update 2, Tuesday 6th May:: Also see this email from IHP, which seems to contradict the information given over the phone to some people. Updated, Tuesday 6th May: For the latest news, see this post.
It has just come to light that the main source of HRT for trans women apart from the NHS has been closed down. Estrogen has long lived in a strange spot in drugs legislation as it is illegal for a pharmacy to sell it to you without a prescription – but it is quite OK to buy it. For years, people have been buying it online to the extent that it is not considered unreasonable by doctors for someone turning up at a Gender Identity Clinic to already be on HRT. Given the length of NHS waiting lists this happens in around half of cases. (Edit: See in the comments below for recommendations of alternate sites to use. I cannot vouch for any of these personally – yet – and I don’t know if they have been affected by whatever caused the IHP shutdown)
For some, obtaining HRT online is the only way they can get it, as some NHS organisations have “red-listed” supplies and completely cut off non-private sources. Unless you can afford a private prescription (Way more costly than the drugs themselves, which the NHS actually makes money on via the prescription charge) then IHP was the only legal way of obtaining HRT, even if not having HRT would leave you undergoing chemical menopause due to being post-operative.
Unfortunately, a recent international crackdown on less legitimate online pharmacies seems to have caught IHP up. On the European site you are now asked to provide a prescription with any order, as well as payment options being restricted to American Express (Hard to get hold of in the UK) only:
The alternate sites, that are not branded as being UK or EU specific, have sometimes escaped some of the changes pushed upon the European version but there is no such relief here. There is simply no payment option presented and it is impossible to proceed.
For comparison, here is what you see if you provide a US shipping address on the .biz or .vu sites: the eCheck payment option appears.
I have written to IHP to try to find out more information on what has happened, but in the mean time for those affected, the following advice may prove useful:
Affected by IHP closure? Your GP is can prescribe WITHOUT GIC. Take http://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/int-gend-proto.pdf and http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/files/pdfversion/CR181x.pdf. If GP refuses you are entitled to a second opinion. If still refuse get referral to a hospital endo. If endo refuses get 2nd endo opinion.