Lloyds Banking Group has changed its employee health insurance plans to include private gender reassignment surgery.

The move makes the group - which includes Lloyds Bank, Halifax, Bank of Scotland and Scottish Widows - the first UK-owned employer to offer the surgery, according to PinkNews.

Lloyds Banking Group confirmed the move and said it was committed to providing "increasing and inclusive support" for employees.

A spokeswoman said: "Lloyds Banking Group has today extended its private medical benefits service to include cover for gender dysphoria.

"The health and wellbeing of all our colleagues is of utmost importance to the group and we are committed to providing them with increasing and inclusive support."

The surgery will be provided via Bupa to any mainland UK permanent staff member subscribed to the group's healthcare scheme and the policy change was announced to staff on Thursday.

Karin Cook, Lloyds Banking Group director of operations, told PinkNews that staff would "be able to access healthcare much quicker than they would on any other health provision".

"They could have a wait of up to 36 months (using another health provision) but through this private provision they will be able to do it an awful lot quicker," she said.

"We want to be inclusive to all colleagues and we felt that our current healthcare provision was excluding certain conditions which were very important to people, particularly in the support for some of the mental health issues that colleagues suffer.

"So it was essential that we were able to extend that to cover to people with gender dysphoria."

In 2015, the bank launched colleague and line manager guidance for employees who transition and allows employees to tick a non-binary option for gender on staff surveys.

Kimberley Bird, deputy co-chairwoman of the Rainbow Network, the banking group's 3,000-strong LGBT network, added that she had a very emotional response to the change in policy.

She said: "I think as an organisation we have shown our visible commitment to the trans community.

"Personally I am proud to work for an organisation that just wants to be inclusive."