Doctors at NHS England’s gender identity clinic for children raised concerns over its practices 15 years ago, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.
A 2005 internal review of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) recorded clinicians’ issues with the service, according to documents seen by BBC Newsnight.
They said there was pressure on staff to prescribe puberty blockers, a lack of robust evidence to support the controversial treatment and that some young people who had been referred had troubled pasts such as sexual abuse.
Dr David Taylor, the Medical Director of GIDS in 2005, recommended in his report that there should be further research into gender identity services and that patients should be monitored after leaving the clinic.
He called for staff to be supported if faced with pressure to refer children for treatments they believed to be inappropriate, and said that young people need to be able to explore different options before being prescribed puberty blockers.
Very similar concerns were raised during a GIDS review in 2019. Several staff said that children were being prescribed experimental drugs after minimal consultation and standard procedures were not being followed.
The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust claimed Dr Taylor’s report was “not relevant” to the present day. Prior to 2011, children under 16 years old were not prescribed puberty blockers.
However, a legal case against the Trust is currently being heard at the High Court.
Keira Bell, 23, was given hormone blockers and cross-sex hormones as a teenager after being ‘immediately affirmed’ in her belief that she was really male.
Lawyers for Bell argue that children cannot give informed consent to receiving puberty-blocking drugs and cross-sex hormones.
Last month, NHS England announced that its gender identity services for children and young people are set for an independent review.
Dr Hilary Cass OBE, former President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, is to lead the review, and will consult with a number of organisations as she determines how services for gender-confused young people should change.
A separate inspection of GIDS is also due to be carried out by the Care Quality Commission.