Taxpayers should pay £40 million for trans men to have penises fitted abroad to bypass NHS waiting list, activists say

2 December 2022, 22:08

Trans activists want the NHS to pay for people to have phalloplasties abroad
Trans activists want the NHS to pay for people to have phalloplasties abroad. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

A trans activist group has said that the British taxpayer should foot the bill for trans men to have penises surgically attached abroad, to bypass long waiting lists on the NHS.

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Waiting lists for a phalloplasty in the UK - offered to trans men so their bodies can better match their gender identity - can be up to four years, and activists say this can be very bad for people's mental health.

Some people are already opting to fly abroad to have the operation and bypass the waiting list. But this can cost up to £21,000.

Pressure group Transactual says there are about 2,000 people waiting to have the operation in the UK.

A nurse in France after the operation
A nurse in France after the operation. Picture: Getty

Campaigners say it is unacceptable that people are having to wait up to four years to have the surgery done, so the NHS should pay for them to go abroad.

That would mean these trans men would "no longer have to put their life on hold," Chay Brown told MailOnline.

Paying for everyone on the list to have the surgery abroad would cost about £40 million, Transactual estimate.

Mr Brown said: "It's costing people's mental health and they need NHS help with that for already stretched services.

"They might find it's cheaper to send people overseas.

"Just because it's not physical pain doesn't mean it's not pain. When people are struggling with dysphoria they can struggle to even leave the house."

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Only one hospital in the UK offers the operation on the NHS - the private New Victoria Hospital. The complex procedure is carried out in three stages.

But Mr Brown said the NHS cannot simply boost the number of surgeons having the operation.

He said: "It's a complicated operation, it involves shifting nerves, blood vessels, things with the urethra. So obviously the surgeons need to be well-trained.

"This situation is something that should have been seen coming years ago, the planning has not been there."

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It comes at a time when the NHS is already stretched to the limit, with huge demands on staff and spiralling waiting lists for many other operations.

Some 7.1 million people were on the waiting list in October, the latest figures available, with 400,000 waiting for more than a year.

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Mr Brown said he understood that his group's demands could seem outrageous in this context.

But he added: "We're not saying people who need a hip replacement shouldn't be sent overseas either, they deserve quick treatment as well," he said.

"Everybody should have timely access to the healthcare that they need, and goes for whether it's a phalloplasty or a hip replacement."