England’s National Health Service (NHS) will soon close its sole child transgender clinic after accusations have arisen that it is unsafe for children. Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which has offered trangender services in the form of puberty blockers to patients as young as 10, is planned to close by spring of 2023.
According to BBC, the move to close the facility came after an independent report from former president of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health Dr. Hilary Cass. In her report, Dr. Cass noted that Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Services (GIDS) would often overlook mental health concerns for the sake of an “unquestioning affirmative approach.”
The report further noted that referrals to the clinic have increased 20-fold in the last decade, rising from about 250 per year to 5,000 in 2021. The single facility is so overbooked with prospective patients at this point that there’s a two-year waiting list before a patient can even be examined.
Dr. Cass went on to state several problems with the clinic, such as not keeping “routine and consistent documentation” on patients, and suggested that the current model of care has left young people “at considerable risk” of poor mental health and distress. She concluded that the clinic was “not a safe or viable long-term option.”
The Tavistock clinic, which was installed in 1989, will be replaced by new regional centers that will be based in children’s hospitals. These centers will approach gender dysphoria with a focus on mental health and ensuring the “holistic needs” of young patients, according to The Week.
The new system will begin with two centers that are expected to be operational before Tavistock closes in 2023. NHS plans to start with two centers, but expects to open six or seven more hospital-based clinics in the future.
The Week goes on to report that these new centers would take a slower approach than Tavistock’s rush to puberty blockers. Patients will have to submit to “formal clinical trials” and cases will be followed into adulthood in order to access long-term outcomes.
The move to close Tavistock has been supported by some patients who feel they received inadequate treatment from the clinic. Daily Mail has an in depth interview with Ritchie Herron, a British man who is opening up about his own experiences with Tavistock, which convinced him to undergo surgery to remove his genitals.
Herron says that doctors did not fully prepare him for the ramifications of such a procedure, which left him infertile, incontinent, and feeling like a “sexual eunuch.” He suggests that his identity as “trans” was the result of mental health issues and decades of suppressing his homosexuality. He said that his doctors did not identify this before they fast-tracked him into making “the biggest mistake of [his] life.”
Furthermore, Herron said that he was not made aware of the risks and results of the operation. He recalled waking up after the surgery and thinking, “Oh God, what have I done?” He told Daily Mail:
“My concern is clinicians failed to identify red flags and change direction. Proper consideration needs to be given to issues such as OCD, internalized homophobia, depression, drug use, sexual abuse and childhood trauma as potential reasons for patients rejecting their sexed body.” He added, “I’m proof the whole system has to become far more robust. How many more people are there out there like me?”