Senior managers said State funding ‘should be reviewed’
Senior HSE managers voiced concern about the advice given to service users by the Transgender Equality Network (Teni) and said the support group’s State funding should be reviewed because of this.
Teni had its HSE funding suspended in April after it failed to meet a deadline to file its 2020 accounts which are the third set of accounts to be filed late by the transgender lobby group.
The HSE gave Teni €1.24m between 2017 and 2021, including €230,000 last year.
Documents released under Freedom of Information act show HSE managers were concerned not just about Teni’s financial governance but the advice it gave people who identify as transgender.
On January 13, Andrew Lynch, a senior manager in the HSE’s national HR division, emailed colleagues to say, “I believe that ongoing funding to Teni and their service-level agreement needs to be examined in the context of the ongoing dispute with the National Gender Service (NGS), changes in personnel… and advice being actively provided to service users in contradiction to the model of service relating to treatment abroad.”
While the NGS treats patients after detailed psychiatric assessments, Teni has advocated for patients, including under 16s who have parental consent, to be allowed to get hormone replacement therapy or puberty blockers from local GPs in what it calls “informed consent”.
The NGS currently has more than 1,000 patients on a waiting list who must wait up to two-and-a-half years to be assessed.
Senior Teni staff and its then-chairwoman Sara Phillips have appeared on podcasts promoting GenderGP, an alternative online service where doctors provide scripts for patients after a remote assessment.
Michael Webberley, the service’s co-founder, was struck off the UK medical register in May for his failure to provide adequate care to trans patients as young as nine.
His wife and co-founder Helen Webberley, was suspended for two months last week for failure to provide proper care to patients aged 12 and 17, and for failing to discuss fertility issues with an 11-year old girl.
John Meehan, the HSE’s head of suicide prevention, wrote to Phillips in February saying funding was at risk due to governance issues.
He also said there had been concerns regarding Teni’s “relationship” with the NGS.
The documents show that Teni, which had its funding restored after its accounts were eventually presented in April, was put on a service-level agreement instead of a grant so the HSE could have greater oversight of its finances.
In a February meeting with the HSE, Teni said it understood that the financial governance problems were casting “a shadow” on its services which include training HSE staff on trans issues.
Teni was recorded as saying they were trying to “clean up the mess” since 2018. They were hampered by the sudden death of their bookkeeper in 2021.
Last month Phillips resigned as Teni chair, a post she held for 10 years, to be replaced by Sam Blanckensee. It hired Tina Kolos Orban as its new chief executive in April.
Paul Moran, a consultant psychiatrist with the NGS, said he did not want to discuss Teni.
“Treatments for gender dysphoria require considerable assessment,” he said. “They are best done in-person with the relevant specialists. Services that are provided from abroad that don’t provide in-person assessments are unsafe and unsuitable for transgender patients.”
Moran said some patients who had started treatments obtained though online services had presented with “significant difficulties”. He accepted there was a long waiting list for the NGS.
“This is an issue globally that demand is completely outstripping the development of the services,” said Moran.