With the continued increase in referrals to GIDS in 2017/18, we are aware that our waiting times have recently increased and that it can now take 14 to 18 months between having a referral accepted and being seen for a first assessment. We know that waiting to see someone at our service can be distressing for young people and their families, especially in a situation where the waiting time might increase. We are working hard to see everyone as quickly as possible.
We continue to work on innovative ways to deliver our service, both to reduce the waiting list and to support young people and their families while they are waiting. This includes running group sessions, and having a clinician rota available over the phone to respond to immediate concerns that may arise while on the waiting list.
In addition we are also working on improving the quality of referrals that come into our service to reduce delays before being added to the waiting list. Once a referral is accepted the original referral date is honoured, but it can take a lot of resources to get the information required to process referrals.
We remain true to our founding values and therapeutic aims – we provide a highly specialised service for children and adolescents who are experiencing gender dysphoria or need support to explore their gender identity.
We do this by fostering recognition and non-judgemental acceptance of diversity in gender identities and gender expression; providing support, advice and treatment to assist in reducing emotional, behavioural, and relationship difficulties and their effects; offering options for physical interventions as appropriate, and working with local services to prevent mental health problems such as anxiety, low mood, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. The service thinks about difficulties associated with gender identity development in the context of general developmental processes.
For families and professionals it can be difficult to know how to support young people with gender dysphoria as there are widely-differing strongly-held views – this social context and debate are moving faster than the evidence base. We are working hard to add to the evidence base and contribute to this changing field but understand that living with uncertainty is challenging.
As a service we need to remain thoughtful and work with young people and their families as individuals. Evidence shows that the physical interventions that some young people may choose to undergo can be tremendously beneficial. We also know that many young people who visit our service decide not to go ahead with any physical intervention.
We believe that individualised care is the best way forward – every young person is different and their needs and the best approach for them must be considered on a case-by-case basis. Many young people, given the space to explore their identity, are creating more varied pathways and understandings of gender, and find different things helpful in reducing their gender dysphoria.