Only 50% of transgender patients feel supported by doctors

transgender patient, supportive healthcare

Only half of transgender patients report supportive primary care experiences, with more understanding healthcare experiences decreasing psychological distress

50% of transgender people reported understanding and supportive primary care experiences when being tended to by a doctor.

Transgender patients with more supportive healthcare experiences have stated having a lower likelihood for self-injury and suicidal thoughts.

The term ‘transgender’ is used to encompass those whose identity, expression or behaviour does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. Transgender people experience significant disparities in mental health and healthcare outcomes compared to cisgender people.

Access to professional and supportive medical care is very important to the wellbeing of transgender people, particularly for mental health reasons.

However, many healthcare professionals continue to report experiences of uncertainty or discomfort regarding how to care for transgender patients, as there is little information and support given to them also – where medical schools frequently do not provide specific training in this area.

The current state of transgender healthcare is already a cause of concern, with many healthcare practices actively turning transgender people away, and other simply not giving appropriate care, transgender people repeatedly are discriminated against and experience higher mortality rates than any other LGBT group.

7% of trans people were refused access to healthcare because of their identity in the UK

Published in Family Practice by Oxford University Press, researchers took data from the Counting Ourselves survey, consisting of 948 transgender people across New Zealand throughout 2018.

From this analysis, they found that only 56.9% of respondents felt they were treated the same as any other patient in routine appointments, with less than half of respondents – at 48.2% – reporting that their primary care doctors were supportive enough of them and their needs in gender-affirming care.

47% of survey respondents stated that they had to inform their healthcare providers about trans or non-binary people in order to receive appropriate care, and just 23.8% of transgender patients had a primary care doctor who exhibited substantial knowledge regarding gender-affirming care.

Despite this clear care disparity amongst transgender patients, only 42.6% of medical providers reported that they were willing to educate themselves on gender-affirming care.

Appropriate transgender knowledge was frequently rare among primary care doctors

For the transgender respondents, each additional supportive experience they had with a primary care doctor was associated with an 11% decrease in the likelihood of a suicide attempt.

Consequently, however, each negative healthcare experience resulted in a 20% increase in the likelihood of suicide attempts. This displays a clear mental health risk which inappropriate care can place on young adults who are not cisgender, emphasising the need healthcare providers have to learn more, and protect, transgender patients.

Rona Carroll of the University of Otago, and an author of this study, said: “Medical schools have an important role to play in ensuring our future doctors have the knowledge and confidence needed to provide supportive care to their transgender patients.

“Postgraduate general practice training programmes should incorporate transgender healthcare as a key skill in their curricula.”


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