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Mermaids Statement to The Times

Mermaids statement to the Times

We have had a further email from Lucy Bannerman at the Times.  As is our policy, we will when appropriate put both press requests and our response into the public domain.  This is to inform public discussion about trans issues, and there is no reason this should be the preserve of any one news site.

Dear Ms Green 

As you are aware, I've been in touch with former clinicians who worked at GIDS. They have raised a number of concerns about Mermaids' relationship with the service and I'd like to invite Mermaids to respond to these concerns. Grateful for your response before my deadline at midday tomorrow.

1. The clinicians claim that Mermaids helps young people and their families to write letters of complaint to the service. They claim it is obvious the complaints are written or at least supervised by Mermaids, because they are very similar in style, language and content. On at least one occasion, they claim a complaint from a family was actually signed by Susie Green. 
Has Mermaids ever assisted families in writing complaints to GIDS?

Mermaids response to 1.

GIDS is part of the NHS. All parts of the NHS have robust complaints procedures. That is part of a modern health service.

Like users of any other part of the NHS, users of GIDS can and should use complaints procedures when appropriate.  Users of GIDS should have the same rights as any NHS Users.

A system where complaints are denied or ignored would be highly unethical and goes against basic NHS principles.  Mermaids offer support to parents in all aspects of their use of GIDS, including offering support when there is cause of complaint as that is what a support group does.  

2. The clinicians also claim that Mermaids directs young people and their families on what to say to the specialists during assessment, in order to speed up access to medical treatment.
Has Mermaids ever advised young people and their families on what to say, in order to accelerate treatment?

Mermaids response to 2.

Our parents and teens online forums are peer groups, where literally hundreds of messages are exchanged every day. A wide variety of topics are covered, between parents and young people, and without censure unless our rules of conduct and respect towards one another are broken, or a safeguarding concern is noted.  This is not Mermaids, but open discourse between peers.  

The aims of bringing families and young people together are to reduce isolation and loneliness and create a sense of community for people who are dealing with very difficult circumstances. Mermaids does not tell people what to say or do, we provide information and resources only.

Many of our service users feel understandably very anxious about access to the NHS GIDS services, exacerbated by the lengthy wait time of over 20 months. The Tavistock are working hard to reduce this waiting list, as they know the distress caused by the long wait for access to treatment is significant. 

3.The clinicians also claim that individual staff members are rated and discussed on online forums, and that Mermaids' supporters advise each other on preferred who are more likely to make referrals quickly, and which clinicians are to be avoided because they favour a more cautious approach.
What could they be referring to?

Mermaids response to 3.

Parents and young people are entitled to share experiences and that includes their clinical experiences. That is what a peer group is for.

Mermaids does not interfere with peer discussions unless our rules of conduct and respect towards one another are broken, or a safeguarding concern is noted. 

4. Lastly, the clinicians claims that the factors, outlined above, combine to create an "unethical and toxic" clinical environment for both the vulnerable people in need of support, and the NHS specialists trying to help them.
How does Mermaids respond?

Mermaids response to 4.

Any responsible clinician would want parents and young people to remain informed about services and what to expect.

Any responsible clinician would also want users to be able to complain if their experience of the service they receive is unsatisfactory and causes distress and potential harm.

Transparency and openness of service, practice and support provided are basic principles of both Mermaids and the NHS.

We will continue to allow open discussions about all aspects of the challenges faced between peers on our forums. This will inevitably include discussions around the Tavistock service, which includes many positive messages about the care received and the excellent outcomes achieved. There will also be discussions around frustration and distress caused by the lengthy waiting list, and dissatisfaction with the care received.

The World Professional Association of Transgender Health guidelines are available here.