More sex change ops for Norfolk

MARK NICHOLLS The number of sex change operations carried out in Norfolk is to rise next year to clear a backlog.

MARK NICHOLLS

The number of sex-change operations carried out in Norfolk is to rise next year to clear a backlog.

The move follows a complaint to the Healthcare Commission by a patient who was disappointed that their surgery was not going ahead as quickly as planned.

The Healthcare Commission review concluded that the Norfolk gender policy should be amended to ensure it looks at the funding of sex-change operations in more detail.

Yesterday, Norfolk Primary Care Trust agreed to increase the amount it spends on such operations from £76,000 this year to £163,000 in 2008/09, with a further review of spending after that.

A report to the board meeting heard that in the past few years there had been a marked increase in requests for gender surgery, particularly for female-to- male operations.

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In recent years, Norfolk has funded three sex-change operations a year, usually two male-to-female and one female-to-male but last year there was greater demand for surgery which meant two patients were declined surgery, resulting in one complaining to the Healthcare Commission.

Director of public health Dr John Battersby said: "We are not really sure why there is an increase in demand, it could be because people are more aware of the availability of surgery and are more willing to discuss this issue with health-care professionals whereas in the past they would not have shared the problem with anybody."

Patients seeking gender- change surgery undergo assessment and support and after two years are considered for appropriate surgery.

He said at this stage that all those who have now been assessed for surgery should have their operations funded in the next year but those who have just started the process will have their surgery request considered as part of the review of funding from 2009 onwards.

"However, I do not think the board will be looking at making it more difficult for those patients," Dr Battersby added.

While sex-change surgery can involve a number of operations, the average cost is about £40,000 a patient.

That compares, for example, with a heart bypass operation costing about £15,000.

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