Funding boost for South West gender service

Posted by Devon Partnership Trust in News on 26th March, 2024

Funding boost for South West gender service

The gender service for adults in the South West is benefitting from additional investment.

The service will see around £6m of additional funding over the course of a new six-year contract between NHS England South West and Devon Partnership NHS Trust – which runs the West of England Specialist Gender Identity Clinic (formerly known as The Laurels) based in Exeter.

Over the last year or so, staff at the clinic have been working with people from the community and NHS England South West to create a plan to improve gender services.  In particular, there is a shared desire to reduce the number of people on the waiting list and to reduce the length of time they have to wait.

Nationally there has been a significant rise in demand over recent years for gender services, while there has also been a shortage of specialist, trained clinical staff to meet this increased demand. This has made it very challenging to recruit the staff needed to develop services in the way that local people have said is most important to them.

Simon Rutter, Service Lead at the West of England Specialist Gender Identity Clinic, says: “We have a fantastic team and they have been working incredibly hard over the last few years to improve our service and reduce waits.  However, we still have a significant backlog and people are waiting too long for the support they need.  This additional investment is very welcome and will help us to increase our capacity to see more people.

“Recruiting to the service has been our greatest challenge, particularly with doctors and psychologists, but we have been successful in filling some key posts – which is great news.  We have also created a Clinical Nurse Specialist team to provide support to our doctors, which is enabling us to increase the support we can offer to people with complex needs – something we are seeing increasingly often.

“Our plea to people on the waiting list is to make sure their contact details are up to date.  If you’ve moved, changed your mobile provider, changed your mind and no longer want to be seen or you have been seen somewhere else – please contact the clinic.  If we can’t contact you, we can’t make an appointment for you when the time comes.  When you are given an appointment, please use it and, if you don’t plan to use it, please tell us so that we can give it to someone else.  All of these things will help the clinic to support more people.”

Recent improvements and developments include:

  • Additional gender specialists to provide extra support with hormone prescribing
  • Speech and language therapists now providing outreach support in Bristol, to reduce travelling times for some people – and other clinical sessions across the region are being explored
  • Opened up the external waiting list to new patients for the first time since July 2016
  • Reviewed the list of those people waiting and identified around 150 people who no longer require an appointment
  • Offering those who are waiting the opportunity to contact Gendered Intelligence, a voluntary, community and social enterprise organisation that offers peer support opportunities and help with non-clinical gender support services, such as information about how to change your name and other logistical advice. Gendered Intelligence provide peer support and help with non-clinical gender support services, so people can continue to make progress towards their transition goal while they wait. Further information and advice is available on Devon Partnership NHS Trust’s website at

Steve Sylvester, Director of Specialised Services and Health and Justice Commissioning, NHS England South West, said: “This investment represents our commitment to meet increasing demand and improve gender services in the region. We will continue to work with people from the community, staff at the West of England Specialist Gender Identity Clinic, GP practices, community services and support organisations to ensure people are referred appropriately and have access to all the information they need while they are waiting to be seen by a specialist.”

Ruby, a person with lived experience of gender issues, said: “There are a lot of people waiting for support for their gender needs and it can be incredibly distressing to wait years for the care and treatment you are looking for.  Hopefully this extra funding will help the team in Exeter to see more people but, sadly, waiting times will remain long.  If you are waiting, there are support groups and a network of people who are out there to help each other – you are not alone. From my experience, once you start your journey the staff are brilliant.  They really care and they will do everything they can to support you to reach your goals.”