The Sandyford clinic is where Glasgow’s gender clinic is based, alongside various sexual health and victim counselling services. I’ve been attending it since 2017, and I’ve been meaning to write a proper piece about it for some time: visiting in person, even before COVID, was like playing the abandoned-hospital level of a horror video game. Empty corridor after empty corridor, your footsteps echoing, sitting alone in a large waiting room wondering if the next person you see will be a psychiatrist or a serial killer.
There were protests outside it yesterday by the loons and cowards of the Scottish Family Party, who said they were coming at 11am to brick up the entrance to protest its role in women’s reproductive freedom. In the end they arrived at 8am with cardboard boxes printed with bricks, took their photo and then hid at the Mitchell Library until the colourful and camp counter-protest – which attracted more than 100 people – was over, returning afterwards to take another photo at the wrong building.
The moon howlers of the SFP weren’t there to protest its trans services, although I’m sure that was a bonus. But the Sandyford Clinic has been the subject of ridiculous scaremongering for years now, with anti-trans bigots and cynical Conservatives claiming yet again that the clinic is “experimenting on children” and fast-tracking them into surgery. The fact that children don’t get gender-affirming surgery and nobody is experimenting on anybody is an inconvenient truth they prefer not to address.
This morning, The National newspaper printed a story about a scandal at the Sandyford. But it’s not the invented one of the bigots. It’s the real one anyone attending can tell you about.
Just two psychiatrists, each working one day a week, cover adult services for the whole west of Scotland. The young person’s team is soon to consist of a single person, who will work half the week and cover all of the country
I know both psychiatrists, and they appear to be good people. But they’re not magic people. They’re massively overworked in a department that’s desperately underfunded and understaffed. One position has been advertised for years now and nobody has applied, because who’d want to work in an environment like that?
“There’s this massive waiting list and there’s going to be loads of scrutiny on you and people are going to be actively campaigning for your service to close down and there’s 1000 newspaper articles written about your client br every week. When you put it like that, nobody is going to want to do it.”
When I self-referred to the Sandyford in 2016, it took 11 months before I was offered an initial assessment visit. Officially the adult waiting list is nearly five years long now. Anecdotally I’m hearing it’s even longer than that. And the lack of staff means the healthcare you do get is inadequate. Last May a really important appointment was made for me; nobody informed me about it and I didn’t discover it had been made until November. The earliest next appointment was in February.
If this were any other branch of healthcare, the coverage would be deafening. But I think it’s a safe bet that the genuine scandal at the Sandyford, one that’s affecting the healthcare of a small but significant group of people, will get less coverage than any scaremongering. And that too should be a national scandal.