The NHS in Scotland has spent more than £1.5 million over the last five years on sex change operations for transsexuals, it has been revealed.
More than 100 patients have undergone the surgery, which health boards are legally required to offer.
But because Scotland lacks the specialist facilities required to perform the operation, the NHS is paying for the procedure to be carried out at private clinics and hospitals in England.
Gender reassignment surgery has been recognised as a necessary medical treatment which should be available on the NHS since a 1998 Court of Appeal judgment.
A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which paid £506,000 for nine women and 22 men to have the surgery, said: “The NHS carries out certain gender realignment procedures if it is clinically considered to be appropriate and if the patient fulfils certain clinical criteria.
“Such procedures are specialised and where they can be done locally they will be but if not patients are sent elsewhere in the UK for the procedures to be carried out.”
But Matthew Sinclair of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “When people are being denied cancer drugs on the grounds that the NHS just can’t afford them, many will find it incredible that sex change operations are being considered a priority.”
Earlier this year it emerged that the NHS in Wales had agreed to fund more sex change operations.
Critics of sex change operations say that transsexualism involves a psychological problem, not a physical one, and so radical physical surgery is inappropriate.
They point to numerous cases of transsexual patients who later changed their minds and deeply regret the surgery.
In 2007 a doctor specialising in ‘gender dysphoria’ was found guilty of serious professional misconduct because he rushed five patients into sex change surgery before they had been properly assessed.