Scotland to Continue Giving Puberty Blockers to Children

Glasgow gender dysphoria clinic should allow children as young as twelve to take drugs despite decision in England to halt such interventions, watchdog finds.
Scotland to Continue Giving Puberty Blockers to Children
Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch talks in the House of Commons in London on Oct. 20, 2020. (Parliament TV)
Rachel Roberts

The Scottish government will continue allowing gender-confused children as young as twelve to be prescribed puberty-blocking drugs in a policy that sets the country at odds with NHS England.

Hormone treatment for children is now only allowed in England as part of clinical trials after NHS England ruled there was a lack of evidence on the safety and effectiveness of such interventions.

In contrast, Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS)—part of the NHS service north of the border—has recommended the continued prescribing of drugs for children because it found there was an increased demand from young people with gender dysphoria.

Critics, including the charity Transgender Trend, which campaigns against gender ideology in schools and the prescribing of hormones, raised concerns over the new guidelines on Twitter.
“Why can NHS Scotland come to such different conclusions to NHS England, on exactly the same evidence? ‘Rising numbers of children seeking help’ is not justification for giving them puberty blockers, it is the opposite: a reason for caution.”

HIS published a consultation document last week which said that young people on hormone therapies should receive accurate information, including the benefits and risks, alongside monitoring and review by medical specialists.

There was no recommendation to withdraw the controversial treatment for children, which can result in long-term health problems and set a young person on a path toward life-altering surgery resulting in infertility and loss of sexual function.

The guidance issued by the social care watchdog refers to Scottish legislation which “recognises that a young person aged 12 and over is presumed to have sufficient capacity to make decisions about medical treatment, although we recognise this will not always be the case.”

Sandyford Clinic in Glasgow is the only facility in Scotland to currently prescribe hormone treatment for children, and has a waiting list of around 3,700 young people suffering from gender dysphoria.

The Tavistock Clinic in London paved the way in prescribing puberty blockers for young children, generating a huge amount of controversy before it was closed down in spring this year.

A series of whistleblowers raised concerns about the ethos and practice of the Tavistock, with the clinic also hit by legal action initiated by so-called “detransitioners”, who came to regret the life-altering treatment they were given as young people.
The NHS's Tavistock Clinic for children in London has now closed down following a series of controversies. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
The NHS's Tavistock Clinic for children in London has now closed down following a series of controversies. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The 22-page document from HIS does not refer to the Cass Report, which reviewed gender identity services in England and found there was a risk in encouraging “social transitioning” and said there was a lack of evidence to justify prescribing puberty suppressors for young children. This interim report has yet to make its final recommendations as gender dysphoria service provision in England is currently under review.

The Scottish report refers instead to documents published by the devolved SNP administration and pro-trans charities, including Stonewall and  LGBT Youth Scotland, the body that helped write the guidance.

HIS said of its report: “Healthcare Improvement Scotland has been commissioned by the Scottish government to create national standards of care for adult and young people’s gender identity services. There are currently no national standards of care for gender identity services in Scotland.”

Speaking in the UK Parliament last week, Women and Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch warned of an “epidemic” of children who may be gay being placed on a damaging pathway toward surgery and sterilisation—which she said was akin to “conversion therapy”.

Telling the Commons that “no child is born in the wrong body”, Ms. Badenoch suggested the Government’s proposed ban on conversion therapy would not only apply to people who attempt to turn gay children straight, but also to those who try to persuade gay children they are transgender.

Rachel Roberts is a London-based journalist with a background in local then national news. She focuses on health and education stories and has a particular interest in vaccines and issues impacting children.
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