The health service is failing to meet the needs of transgender adults and children, according to a survey by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
More than 1200 nursing staff identified a lack of training, leaving health care staff without the skills needed to care for rising numbers of transgender patients. The responses to the survey suggested that this has led to trans patients facing prejudice and a lack of understanding, as well as a persistent disadvantage in accessing appropriate healthcare.
‘There appears to be a mismatch between the need for these services and the training given. I think currently there is not enough support and this adds further distress to the experience of this group of patients,’ said one respondent to the survey.
Of those surveyed, 76% encounter transgender patients in their healthcare work, and 56% said they have cared for them directly. However only 13% of those said they had felt prepared to meet their patients’ needs. Nearly 78% of the respondents reported having had no training at all in this area. Just 1% said their pre-registration courses covered this subject.
‘Over the past few years, rising awareness of gender fluidity has led to more people coming forward – adults and children alike,’ said Wendy Irwin, RCN diversity and equalities coordinator.
‘Building both competence and confidence in understanding is key to breaking through stigma, but as this survey shows, support through learning and development is urgently required if we are to provide the care and support trans people need.’
As a result, only 20% of those surveyed believed the workforce has the skills to care for transgender adults and children. More than three quarters said that more training for healthcare staff was needed to improve care.
The survey also found that caring for transgender children was an issue in healthcare. According to the RCN, there has been a rise in the number of young people who consider themselves to be transgender, just 14% of nurses said their service is equipped to care for them.
‘With such a dramatic rise in children identifying as trans or non-binary, it’s critical that all healthcare staff have the skills to help young patients through the difficulties they may be facing,’ said Fiona Smith, RCN professional lead for children and young people’s nursing.