Birmingham’s Eva Echo announces intention to appeal High Court ruling over transgender NHS waiting times

Catherine Muxworthy January 18, 2023

A group, including Birmingham Pride’s Eva Echo, has lost their legal case against NHS England over waiting times for transgender patients to be seen by a gender dysphoria specialist.

The NHS has a statutory requirement that at least 92% of patients should be referred to a specialist within 18 weeks, and claimants argued that NHS England has broken the law when they have failed to meet this target for transgender patients. However, the High Court judge in the case found that this ‘target’ duty is not a ‘legal’ duty, which means that individuals cannot enforce this as a right.

Following the news of the High Court judge’s ruling, Eva Echo said: “I’m extremely disappointed by the decisions overall, which only serve to prolong the mental health suffering of the trans community.

“Reading the judgement, it seems to me the Judge didn’t quite get it. For example, he referenced other areas being affected if funding was diverted to improve trans healthcare. But this isn’t what we were asking for – there’s more than one way to spend the same money. In any event, if the duty is a target one, then there are no repercussions for NHS England if they don’t meet it. This leads to patients waiting indefinitely which, in my opinion, is inhumane. We disagree with the judgment, which is why we’ll be applying for the chance to appeal.”

Official statistics show there are over 26,000 adults waiting for their first appointment with an adult gender dysphoria clinic, and of those people, over 23,500 have been waiting more than 18 weeks.

Eva Echo did, however, share some positive news that has come from the High Court case. She explains, “NHS England tried to argue trans youths couldn’t yet make their mind up about gender reassignment and therefore wouldn’t be a protected characteristic under the Equality Act. The Judge deemed trans youths are if they’d already started to transition in any way. As such, they are a protected characteristic and covered under the Equality Act against discrimination. As far as I know, this is the first time it’s been included in a legally binding judgment.

“No matter what happens from here, please know that trans voices were heard at a high level during this case.”

Eva continues: “We’ve created so much awareness of the impact it’s having on thousands of people. We collectively took a stand to say we are here and we cannot be silenced. Massive thanks to Good Law Project and the entire legal team for their hard work and dedication. This isn’t the end. We will keep fighting because healthcare is a human right.”