An investigation into the impact on under-18s of NHS treatment for gender dysphoria is to be launched by the UK government, according to reports.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid is reportedly concerned that vulnerable children are being given gender hormone treatment before alternatives have been explored, according to the Times, and is planning an overhaul of services.
This follows an interim report published last month by Cass Review, an independent review of NHS gender identity services for children and young people.
The review says the services have “evolved quickly and organically” in response to increased demand, but that means they have “not gone through some of the normal quality checks” typically applied to new treatments .
He added that there was “a lack of consensus and open discussion about the nature of gender dysphoria and therefore the appropriate clinical response”.
The inquiry, now expected to be part of the review, will look at legal changes that would give it access to an NHS database of people who received hormone treatment as children and later regretted it .
Javid allegedly likened political sensitivities around the treatment of young people with gender dysphoria to those that have hampered investigations into Rotherham’s grooming gangs, The Times reported.
Asked about the issue in the Commons this week, Javid said interim findings from Cass’s review had already shown that NHS services “are too narrow…too assertive, and in fact…borderline of ideology”.
“That’s why in this emerging field, of course, we have to be absolutely sensitive, but we have to make sure that there’s holistic care that’s being provided, that there’s no one-way street and that all medical interventions are based on the best clinical evidence,” he said.
There is currently a single specialist service – the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), run by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust – providing gender identity services to children and young people.
The service sees around 2,500 children a year, of whom around 200 receive some form of hormone treatment.
In September, the appeals court upheld the trust’s right to give puberty-blocking drugs to under-16s deemed mature enough to give informed consent.
The report noted that a lack of “routine and consistent” data on who is referred for treatment means it is “not possible to accurately track” outcomes.
A spokesperson for the trust said: ‘We agree that support should be holistic, based on the best available evidence, and that no assumptions should be made about the right outcome for any given young person.
“At GIDS, we take young people’s self-esteem seriously. Some may call this approach “affirmative”. However, being respectful of someone’s identity does not preclude exploration.
The Department of Health and Social Affairs declined to comment.