NHS shake-up planned for the UK’s only young persons gender clinic and experts are cautiously optimistic

NHS shake-up planned for the UK’s only young persons gender clinic and experts are cautiously optimistic
The Tavistock Centre
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NHS to close the UK’s only dedicated gender identity clinic for children and young people, but outline plans for replacement services

 

The NHS announced today (July 28) plans to close its gender identity clinic for children and young people, at the Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust, to build a “more resilient service” by expanding and reshaping its model.

 

The Tavistock clinic, named the Gender and Identity Development Service (Gids), was launched more than three decades ago to help children and other young people struggling with their gender identity.

 

The existing service has faced huge criticism for years for extremely long wait times, with the facility unable to cope with rising numbers of referrals, added to which some former staff members raised alarm bells about the way it was being operated.

Still, it has been the only centre of its kind in the UK to provide this much-needed service, so it was very much a case of working with what we have. 

 

Instead, as announced today, new regional centres will be set up to “ensure the holistic needs” of patients are fully met, the NHS said.

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The move comes after an independent review, led by Dr Hilary Cass, said the Tavistock clinic needed to be transformed.

Cass, former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, was commissioned for a ‘wide-ranging review’ of gender identity services for children and young people in UK, in 2020.

 

In February 2022, as part of her report, Cass said that the current model of care was leaving young people “at considerable risk” of poor mental health and distress, and having one clinic was not “a safe or viable long-term option”.

 

Referrals have risen sharply in the last decade, with more than 5,000 in 2021-22, compared with less than 250 in 2011-12.

 

The new centres – one based in London and the other in the north west of England – should be fully operational by spring 2023, and will run in conjunction with leading children’s hospitals, like Great Ormond Street.

The final number of centres in the future is yet to be decided, but the announcement did promise “commissioning a national network of regional services across the country over the coming years.”

 

They will aim to help support young people under the age of 18 who are struggling with their gender identity, and be linked to mental health care and GP services where relevant.

During the transition, the NHS has assured that there will be no immediate changes for people already under the Tavistock’s care.

 

Gendered Intelligence, a trans-led charity for trans and non-binary people in the UK, welcomed the move, saying: “The regionalisation of services is a good thing. The current system is no longer fit for purpose and cannot handle patient demand.”

“We hope that the proposed regional youth services mark the beginning of more accessible, robust, and long-lasting gender identity services across the UK for everyone.”

 

Similar to many trans-inclusive charities and organisations, understandably, there is some cautious optimism about the move.

GI added, “Although we are broadly optimistic about these proposals, we have some serious concerns about the forthcoming research protocol.”

“Bureaucratic obstacles are already stopping people from accessing desperately needed treatments in the current system: we do not need any more.”

 

 

LGBT Foundation responded with a similar vigilant positivity about the announcement in a post shared to their social media: 

 

Read the full NHS announcement here.

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