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NHS system means trans patients risk losing healthcare history, GP suggests

by Jess Hacker
10 December 2021

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Transgender patients risk losing information held on their patient record under current processes for changing the gender marker on a patient record, a leading GP has suggested.

In England, patients can change their title, name and gender marker on their records by contacting their general practice.

However, Dr Sam Hall, a GP partner at Brighton Health and Wellbeing Centre, has said the system that allows practices to do this for patients can lead to information being ‘lost’.

Under the current system, when a patient requests their gender marker be changed, the GP practice must notify Primary Care Support England (PCSE) and complete the dedicated form.

The patient will then receive a new NHS number, and the GP practice must then create a new patient record and transfer all previous medical information from the original.

But, speaking at Management in Practice’s recent Newcastle event, Dr Hall, said the process is ‘in and of itself is discriminatory’ because ‘unless somebody is going to sit down and import all the old records into the new one, you lose your healthcare history’.

Dr Hall, who is a transgender man, explained that he was assigned female at birth and later gave birth to three children before transitioning, adding that he then ‘lost my entire maternity records to transition’.

He added the problem with the system ‘drives patients crazy, it drives practice managers crazy, and it drives receptions crazy’.

It comes after GP practices were told to improve their training on trans, race and disability inclusion after a survey found more than half (57%) of trans people avoid seeing their GP.

A separate study had suggested that practices’ ‘inflexible’ IT systems can lead to trans people being excluded from necessary check-ups.

Speaking to Management in Practice, the LGBT health awareness group Pride in Practice said: ‘We believe that the current NHS systems are outdated and need to be made more efficient so that mistakes are minimised.’

Pride in Practice – the primary care-facing arm of the charity LGBT Foundation – aims to increase LGBT awareness and confidence in GP practices through training, resource sharing and support.

Ryan Smith, the organisation’s manager for Greater London and South East, said practices should have a ‘set system in place’ for supporting transgender patients.

‘We always reiterate to practices to speak with each individual patient, regarding their individual needs, and ensure those individual needs and requirements are being met,’ he said.

‘Whilst Pride in Practice cannot make changes to the systems in place, we can share best practice and offer training and support to all GP practice staff to be more LGBT inclusive.’

Earlier this year, a BJGP study recommended practices work with trans-specific sexual health services after finding only 7% of trans men and non-binary people preferred seeing a GP for their cervical screening.