I spent much of yesterday at a conference in London dedicated to the health issues of trans people. (Thanks to the Bristol LGBT Forum for sending me as their representative.) One of the main things to come out of the conference was an update on the aftermath of #TransDocFail.
For those of you who missed it, I blogged a lot about this back in January. This post talks about the Twitter hashtag, and this one talks about the Guardian article that started it all. It all ended up with my vagina making an appearance in the Guardian (though only in text, thank goodness). That’s explained here.
In the wake of the controversy, Helen Belcher, who also presented the Trans Media Watch evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, started to collect actual data of instances of medical abuse. She recognized that complaints on Twitter would not be believed. What we needed was sound evidence with names, dates and details. Having got a mountain of feedback, including some absolutely horrific tales, she anonymized all of the data and sent a report off to the General Medical Council (copied to various politicians). There were 98 cases in all, including two from me.
Recently the GMC got back to Helen. They were horrified, and they have picked 39 particularly egregious cases to follow up. They might not all end up in full investigations as some of the cases are from a long time ago and don’t have sufficient detail to be sure of the perpetrators, but 24 are definitely getting the full treatment. That’s a lot more than Helen expected, and 24 more than I expected.
Some of the statistics around these 39 cases are interesting (I hope I have these right, Helen, please correct me if not). 24% of them referred to instances where the patient was not seeking treatment for trans issues, but was abused by the NHS staff because they were trans. 10 of the cases relate to sexual abuse and/or inappropriate contact. Two of the cases resulted in suicide attempts, and one in the patient refusing to go back to hospital even though he was in great pain.
The appalling thing is that we believe this is only the tip of a very large iceberg. Helen also collected data on people who started to enter data about a case and stopped for some reason. The 98 cases that went forward to the GMC represent less than a quarter of the people who found Helen’s survey and started to use it. Then there will be all of the people who didn’t know that the survey existed, or who were afraid to complain least they lose what little access to health care that they have.
One of the cases involves a patient being directly threatened with withdraw of treatment if they complained.
Talking to the GMC taught Helen a thing or two about the process of investigating doctors. In the week that Richard Curtis was put under scrutiny, 40 other doctors received similar treatment. Such cases are almost never reported in the national media. The Curtis case was only deemed newsworthy because Dr. Curtis is a gender specialist, and the story could be spun as an attack on trans people.
Jane Fae has an article on Gay Star News about Helen’s work, and the GMC decision. She also sent the information to every mainstream newspaper, most of whom will run a trans story at the drop of a hat. Not one of them has picked it up.