NHS failures mean trans people unable to access Covid passes
Author: Patrick Kelleher
A woman holds an Apple iPhone showing a NHS Covid Pass on October 8, 2021. (Matthew Horwood/Getty)
Some trans people who have recently transitioned are unable to access COVID vaccine certificates due to an NHS system failure, PinkNews can reveal.
While COVID vaccine passes are no longer required in the UK for entry to public places, they’re still mandatory for tourists visiting the United States and other countries.
That rule is posing a problem for trans people in the UK, some of whom are now unable to access their COVID vaccine certs due to an ongoing issue with their NHS records.
Some trans people have found that, after updating their gender marker with health authorities, a brand new NHS number is generated, meaning important details – such as vaccination info – become inaccessible.
It is understood the issue is affecting those who changed their gender marker after being vaccinated against COVID-19, which could include more than 450 people who applied for a Gender Recognition Certificate between 2020 and 2021.
Julie, whose surname is being withheld to protect their identity, is due to visit the United States in the coming weeks to see their partner – however, they’re now facing missing out on their trip and losing the cost of their flight due to the NHS system error.
They’ve been sent from one agency to the next in recent weeks in their bid to resolve the issue, but nobody is prepared to help them, Julie tells PinkNews.
‘A bureaucratic tail-chase’
When a person updates their gender marker, they’re given a brand new NHS number and their old records must be manually transferred into their new file.
However, some trans people are facing insurmountable challenges when trying to get their data transferred over so they can access their COVID vaccine passes.
“The problem is, the automated systems are not set up to handle it – and so, seemingly more often than not, the system makes your old vaccine records inaccessible, and this ends up starting a bureaucratic tail-chase with no resolution in sight,” Julie says.
Julie approached their GP when they first became aware of the issue. Their GP told them to call 119 – the number set up by the NHS to deal with queries relating to COVID-19 and vaccination.
The agent they spoke to at 119 directed them back to their GP. Their GP then told them to contact the Vaccine Data Resolution Service (VDRS), but they – once again – sent Julie back to their GP.
“My GP directed me out of desperation to the foreign vaccine service, in the hopes they might be able to fix it,” Julie says – however, they simply advised Julie to contact the VDRS.
Finally, Julie tried to book in for a new vaccination, but was given an error code and told to contact the VDRS.
When they tried to apply for a paper copy of their COVID vaccine cert, they were given a message saying “no records found”.
‘Someone else’s problem’
Julie says they’re “at the point of despair” and that they’re calling multiple numbers each day in a bid to get the issue fixed.
They’ve also discovered that they’re not alone – other trans people have posted online about their issues accessing their COVID vaccine certs.
One user wrote, on Reddit: “I have just had my new NHS number after a gender change, and none of my vaccination history has been transferred to the new number so I cannot get a COVID pass.
“My surgery has transferred all my records and done everything they know of, the original NHS number has been destroyed. 119 says it is a surgery issue.”
Another person wrote: “My GP changed my NHS number and now I can’t access my COVID pass! I have a flight in three weeks time that I can’t miss and I’m pretty sure I need a COVID pass for it.”
Just one month ago, another Reddit user said they were having the same problem – and that nobody knew how to fix it.
“Basically, it looks like nobody involved knows how to handle this situation and they’re all trying to pass it off as someone else’s problem,” the user wrote.
As their date of travel gets nearer, Julie is stuck in limbo – they have no idea if they’re going to be able to see their partner due to the ongoing issue.
‘If it weren’t so bleak, I’d laugh’
“I knew the NHS’ IT systems were somewhat janky, but getting bounced from post to pillar and back again – literally a dozen times – is a very dehumanising experience,” Julie says.
“The attitudes of the people who were supposed to be able to help ranged from apologetic to downright dismissive and offensive.”
If they’re unable to travel, they’ll be losing £700 worth of plane tickets – a sum of money that they spent months saving for.
Their advice to other trans people is simple – get a paper version of the COVID pass and keep it safe.
When contacted for comment, an NHS spokesperson told PinkNews that the advice for trans people who are struggling to access their COVID certs is that they contact the VDRS.
When we told Julie about this response, they replied: “If it weren’t so bleak, I’d laugh.”
“I’ve been to the VDRS Helpdesk five plus separate times. Each time, sent back to my GP.”
Actual Story on Pink News
Author: Patrick Kelleher