England’s controversial NHS gender identity clinic for children has been accused by one of its own staff of jeopardising the safety of its patients.
Lead safeguarding officer Sonia Appleby says staff at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) were discouraged from speaking to her, after she reported concerns over the use of puberty blockers to senior staff.
Appleby, who is Named Professional for Safeguarding Children for GIDS, is suing the Trust for ‘detriments’ she says she suffered as a result of her whistleblowing.
In October 2017, Appleby says she made “protected disclosures” to her line manager “regarding concerns raised by GIDS staff”, that the “health or safety of patients was being, had been or was likely to be endangered” by the use of puberty blocking drugs.
At her employment tribunal, which continues today, the psychotherapist and social worker said she had reported “a stream” of complaints made to her by staff about the work of disgraced medic Helen Webberley.
Speaking at the tribunal, Appleby said clinicians were concerned that Webberley, who still runs an unlicensed gender clinic, was “prescribing puberty-blocking drugs in ethically dubious practices” to GIDS users.
She claims management at the Trust sought to “besmirch” her after becoming aware of the protected disclosures and, as a consequence, jeopardised safeguarding at the clinic.
In May, Dr David Bell – a former staff governor at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust – revealed how he had been subjected to disciplinary proceedings after he reported clinicians’ concerns over patient welfare in an internal report.
Dr Bell told The Observer that hospital management were defensive after he raised concerns about the way vulnerable children diagnosed with gender dysphoria were being treated by the clinic.