Trans healthcare in Northern Ireland

Trans, non-binary and intersex people, as well as people questioning their gender, can avail of support and medical transition healthcare services at any age in Northern Ireland. There are currently two separate NHS services, one for children and adolescents, and one for adults. They are both based in Belfast.

Who can access trans healthcare

Trans healthcare in Northern Ireland is available for everyone, provided you are not exempt from free healthcare. People with learning disabilities or mental illness are eligible for treatment, though additional support and assessment may be required.

 Child & Adolescent Services

Knowing Our Identity is a new service which supports trans and gender variant children and adolescents, up to the age of 18, across Northern Ireland. They accept referrals from Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) teams across NI, and can chat directly with parents, guardians and patients directly about referrals. If you are not known to CAMHS, you should talk with your GP for a referral.

Any child or adolescent who considers themselves transgender, non-binary, gender variant and/or is questioning their gender is welcome to seek a referral to KOI.

The preferred route of referral to KOI is through a local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. Other professionals working with a young person such as in health, Social Services or education, as well as young people and their families, can also contact the service directly to discuss a possible referral. As of April 2015, the average waiting time for a first appointment with KOI is approximately 7 weeks.

The standard referral pathway is: GP  CAMHS Team    KOI

You should ask for a referral, via your CAMHS team, to:

  • Knowing Our Identity
    Foster Green Site,
    110 Saintfield Road,
    BT8 6HD.

You can also contact KOI directly on  02890 638000.

What KOI Offer

KOI provide young trans and gender variant people with counselling, family and peer support, and mental health support services. Patients can also currently access hormonal treatments from age 15 and up, subject to assessment.

On the lead up to a patient’s 18th birthday, they can be transferred smoothly to the separate adult service. See below for details.

Adult Services

The Brackenburn Clinic is the name for the Regional Gender Identity & Psychosexual Service, and provides adults in Northern Ireland with assessment, psychological support and onward referral, where appropriate, for hormone replacement therapy and surgery.

Any adult (18 years old and older) who is experiencing gender dysphoria is welcome to seek a referral to Brackenburn Clinic via their GP or a mental health professional. Further information including how to seek a referral is available at the Brackenburn Clinic’s website. Additional information for patients is also available online.

You can not currently self-refer to this service.

You can get in touch via, or ask for a referral to:

  • Brackenburn Clinic,
    Shimna House,
    Knockbracken Healthcare Park,
    Saintfield Road,
    BT8 8BH.
  • 028 9063 8854
  • The clinic welcomes enquiries via email or telephone from anyone seeking further information or advice.

What Brackenburn Offer

The Brackenburn Clinic provides adults with comprehensive trans healthcare, from mental health support to hormone replacement therapy and surgery. After an initial assessment period, patients are usually offered referral to a variety of services, including but not limited to:

  • Mental health support
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Speech & language therapy
  • Fertility treatment (gamete storage)
  • Laser hair removal
  • Chest surgery
  • Genital surgery
  • Facial surgery

Most of these services are provided by other health service providers, and patients will typically be referred to them through the Brackenburn Clinic. Currently, there is no provider for most surgery in Northern Ireland, and as such most surgery is performed in England, funded by the NHS.

 Drop-in Sessions

The Brackenburn Clinic now hold drop-in sessions for new and potential patients to get more information about the Clinic and what it offers. These are a useful opportunity to ask questions and talk with clinicians.

  • Drop-in sessions are held on the 2nd Tuesday of each month from 4pm to 6pm.
  • They are held at:
    Brackenburn Clinic,
    Centre for Psychotherapy,
    Shimna House,
    Knockbracken Healthcare Park,
    Saintfield Road,
    BT8 8BH
  • They are open everyone, but are aimed at new patients and those considering a referral

 Appointments & Treatment

Generally, patients are offered an initial assessment appointment which documents your history, mental health and gender identity, which can be upwards of 2 hours. After this initial assessment, an ongoing assessment is typical, with appointments usually every month for at least 6 months. After the initial assessment, patients are usually offered physical healthcare interventions (see above). Ongoing appointments are usually every month, but can be more or less often as required. Patients can remain at the Brackenburn Clinic until they are satisfied they have availed of the services they need, or they no longer wish to engage.

 For Professionals

The referral protocol for the Brackenburn Clinic is available online. You should contact the Clinic directly if you have any questions or concerns.

 Guidelines & Standards of Care

The Brackenburn Clinic follows the  2013 Royal College of Psychiatrists Good practice guidelines for the assessment and treatment of adults with gender dysphoria.

 Problems with trans healthcare

Some people find it difficult to access trans healthcare, or encounter problems getting prompt and appropriate access to medical transition when they’re attending gender services.