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NHS gender clinic launches appeal against High Court puberty blockers ruling

Nick Duffy December 22, 2020
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The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, which runs the London-based Gender Identity Development Service, has begun an appeals proces

The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, which runs the London-based Gender Identity Development Service, has begun an appeals process (Getty)

The NHS trust that runs the UK’s only gender identity clinic for transgender children has begun the process of appealing the High Court’s ruling on puberty blockers.

The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, which runs the London-based Gender Identity Development Service, has been forced to pause endocrinology referrals in the wake of the High Court’s ruling earlier this month.

The court ruled that most teens would be incapable of giving informed consent for puberty blockers, with the judges arguing it is “doubtful” those aged 14 to 15 could understand “the long-term risks and consequences” of taking blockers and subsequent hormone therapy, and that it is “highly unlikely” younger children could consent.

The decision, which arose after a legal challenge from a woman who regrets treatments she received both as a teenager and as an adult, has caused chaos for GIDS and the trans young people who rely on the service, given court orders will now have to be sought on every occasion that a patient requires treatment.

In a statement on Tuesday (22 December), the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust confirmed it had “sought permission to appeal” against the court ruling, together with University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

Existing patients on hormones and puberty blockers will face clinical reviews.

The statement assures patients already on puberty blockers or gender-affirming hormone therapy that the drugs will not imminently be withdrawn, but clinical reviews of existing patients will be conducted in 2021 “to make sure they fully understand” the treatment.

The trust added: “The purpose of the clinical review is for us to decide, together with patients, whether a continuation of puberty blockers is in their ‘best interests’.

“If that is what we conclude, and if patients and carers agree with that conclusion, we will apply to the court to obtain best interests assessments about the continuation of treatment.

“Patients will continue to receive their medication until the outcome of this application to the court is known.”

The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, which runs the London-based Gender Identity Development Service, has begun an appeals process over puberty blockers
The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, which runs the London-based Gender Identity Development Service, has begun an appeals process over puberty blockers (Getty/Ben STANSALL)

Patients who are yet to be referred for treatment, and the thousands stuck on the years-long GIDS waiting list, will not be able to access the drugs in the meantime.

The trust warned: “Due to the direction of the court and the need to prioritise our existing endocrinology patients in seeking best interests assessments, for the time being, we have decided not to make any new referrals to endocrinology.

“Access to physical treatment may be available to our patients in the future following an application to court for a ‘best interest’ order. We must prioritise those patients already in the care of our endocrinology clinics before taking on new endocrinology patients.”

Legal defence fund seeks to resist further roll-backs.

The Good Law Project, run by Jolyon Maugham QC, has recently crowdfunded £128,000 for a legal defence fund intended to resist roll-backs of transgender healthcare.

Maugham tweeted on Tuesday (22 December): “Pleased to confirm the @TaviAndPort is appealing against the decision in the Bell case. The advisory group, drawn from the trans community, we set up to administer this fund has its first meeting at noon tomorrow [Wednesday, 23 December].

“We’ll then announce our first actions.”

Related topics: gender identity development service, gids, NHS, puberty blockers

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