latest health care news

26.09.18

NHS England sued for failing to provide fertility services to transgender patients

NHS England is being taken to court by the UK’s national equality body over its failure to offer fertility services to transgender patients.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is taking the public body to court in response to transgender people not being given equal opportunity to access fertility treatment before they transition.

In August, the commission warned NHS England that it was “breaking the law” with “outdated” discriminatory policies which has now led to it launching the high-profile judicial review.

Last month, the EHRC sent a pre-action letter, the first step towards a judicial review, to NHS England requesting that it offer the fertility services.

Now, a spokesperson for NHS England told the Guardian: “NHS England has responded in detail to the EHRC explaining why we believe their request is both misjudged and potentially unfair to NHS patients.

“If, however, they still decide to sue the NHS, the courts will consider the matter in the usual way.”

Individual clinical commissioning groups currently decide whether or not the service is offered, and many choose not to do so for transgender patients, according to the commission.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the commission, told the Guardian: “We have received a comprehensive response from NHS England to our letter regarding the provision of fertility services for transgender patients before they undergo treatment for gender dysphoria.

“We are proceeding with our judicial review claim and will remain in discussions with NHS England about the need to ensure the transgender community can access health services free from discrimination, and that individuals do not have to choose between treatment for gender dysphoria and the chance to start a family.”

Transgender people who undergo treatment for gender dysphoria normally face fertility as a result of the treatment, but it is possible, by extracting and storing eggs or sperm before gender re-assignment, for a trans-person to become a biological parent via surrogates later in life.

But many are keen to undergo treatment when they are teenagers and often cannot afford to pay for fertility services.

The commission says this is discriminates against trans-gender people, who should be offered the services as standard procedure.

NHS England argues that it has no obligation to ensure fertility treatment is provided for everyone, including transgender people, during a time of growing demands and budget strains across the health service.

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Image credit - sudok1

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