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Sunday 1 October 2023 Dublin: 17°C
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Further investment in trans healthcare services needed, clinicians tell TDs
The briefing was organised by Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan and Independent Senator Michael McDowell.

CLINICIANS WITH THE National Gender Service (NGS) have told TDs and Senators that more funding and resources are needed for healthcare services for transgender people in Ireland.

It comes amid concerns over the proposed closure of the Tavistock clinic in the UK, which provided gender dysphoria services to children and teenagers in Ireland due to a lack of dedicated services here.

The event, which was organised by Independent Senator Michael McDowell and Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan, was held on Wednesday afternoon in the Leinster House AV Room.

It was attended by TDs and Senators, alongside visitors from the trans community, with senior clinicians from the NGS providing the briefing.

The speakers included Professor Donal O’Shea, a consultant endocrinologist with the NGS, Dr Ian Schneider, a psychiatrist with the NGS and Professor Fiona McNicholas, who works as a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at CHI Crumlin.

Sources who attended the meeting said that the clinicians told TDs and Senators that there needed to be an expansion of trans healthcare services in Ireland, with additional resourcing for the NGS.

They sought this funding to develop services, particularly around complex surgeries.

The closure of the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which is known as Tavistock clinic, was also mentioned, with the clinicians calling for improved gender dysphoria services for children and teenagers in Ireland.

Currently, Ireland does not have a dedicated psychiatric service for gender dysphoria, with children and teenagers instead being referred to the Tavistock clinic under the Treatment Abroad Scheme.

With the clinic set to close early next year, the HSE is aiming to establish a service in Ireland in CHI Crumlin and Linn Dara.

It is understood there was a disagreement about waiting lists during the meeting, with the clinicians telling politicians that there is a three-year waiting list for initial referrals.

However, there are concerns that waiting lists are longer than three years, with one attendee saying he sought a referral last year and still had not heard from the NGS and knew of others who had waited longer than three years.

The clinicians also detailed the need for additional experience within trans healthcare in Ireland.

Speaking after the event, Flanagan said that he was pleased with how it went, adding that it was a respectful meeting.

“It was an opportunity for members of Dáil Eireann and Seanad Éireann to ask questions and they did that,” said Flanagan.

“The clinicians handled matters well and answered questions comprehensively.”

One attendee, Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan said that she welcomed the “core message” from the clinicians, that there needed to be additional funding allocated to Irish gender services.

“I welcome the core message delivered by the clinicians present- that trans healthcare in this country needs further funding and resources and that the service should be expanded,” Hourigan told The Journal.

“I am particularly glad to see a focus on developing and delivering the complex surgical expertise required within the Irish healthcare sector rather than exporting the issue to other countries.”

One attendee, Ruadhán, who is trans, said that he wanted to see a more “joined up” system to trans healthcare in Ireland.

He said that the approach being taken by the UK to decentralise services made sense and if applied in Ireland, it would “make everyone’s lives a lot easier”, particularly if GPs were more involved in treatment.

Ruadhán added that he believed there was a lot of support from politicians who attended the meeting, and that he wanted to see more action.

“It’s heartening to see that most politicians in the room were well-informed and supportive,” he told The Journal.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin had previously said that the Government needed to work “harder and better” to provide additional supports to transgender teenagers.

Martin said last year that he wanted to see self-declaration with parental consent brought in, alongside ensuring that supports were available.

“We do need to again harness informed opinion on this and expertise in this area but there are many, many young people who need help and support out there at the moment who are not getting the level of support that they need and this is something that concerns me,” he said.