Doctor leading trans youth healthcare review shuts down claim Tavistock closure is a ‘win’

Protect Trans kids

The doctor leading an NHS review into trans youth healthcare has shut down those misrepresenting the closure of the Tavistock gender clinic as a win for the anti-trans movement.

In 2020, NHS England commissioned Dr Hilary Cass, a former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, to conduct a review of healthcare for gender identity services for children and young people.

Currently, there is just one service for trans people under the age of 18 – the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust in London.

In her interim report released in March, Cass called for decentralised care for trans youth in the form of regional centres to be set up across the UK “as soon as feasibly possible” – and she says Tavistock clinic staff will be vital to this.

In July, NHS England announced the Tavistock GIDS would close by spring 2023, to be replaced by two “early adopter services” run by specialist children’s hospitals, with a view to open more regional centres across the country.

While parents welcomed the announcement – describing the Tavistock clinic as a broken and overwhelmed system, and hoping new regional centres would provide easier-to-access care – anti-trans lobbyists claimed the closure as a win.

Disgraced comedian Graham Linehan, who has compared transgender activism to Nazism and has been permanently banned from Twitter for “hateful conduct”, declared the closure a “trans debate victory”, while GB News reported GIDS had been closed over “safety fears”.

However, Cass has underlined that the closure is designed to improve access to healthcare, not shut it down, and complimented the work of staff at the Tavistock centre.

In a statement released on 18 August, Cass said: “I feel that some of the detail about the key components of the future regionalised service delivery model, that I set out in my latest advice to NHS England, has sometimes been overlooked.”

She clarified: “In my interim report I said that a single specialist provider model is not a safe or viable long-term option in view of concerns about lack of peer review and the ability to respond to the increasing demand.

“The purpose of the regionalised model is to improve access, networked care, research capacity and workforce development.”

Hitting back at anti-trans claims surrounding the Tavistock’s GIDS closure, she added: “The staff working at GIDS have demonstrated compassion and a strong professional commitment towards their patient population.

“Their experience and continued engagement will be essential in ensuring a smooth progression to the new service model.

“At the same time, we need to encourage, grow and develop the future workforce that will be key to the delivery of regionalised services. Advancement in medicine is all about reducing uncertainty and risk through research, clinical experience, peer review and clinical networks.

“I have advised that the regional centres should also come together to form a national provider collaborative to ensure consistency of standards and data collection across all providers, as well as providing opportunities for peer review and a forum for discussion of complex cases and/or decisions about medical care.

“This will mean that whichever centre a young person attends they can expect the same standard of care and better information upon which to base their decisions.”

Online gender-affirming healthcare provider Gender GP praised the statement, writing on social media: “We welcome Dr Cass’ intervention to challenge and correct misleading coverage of the closures of the Tavistock and Portman GIDS next spring, and the Cass review’s recommendations for youth care in the UK.

“While we await the final review and further statements as part of Dr Cass’ iterative approach, we are at least pleased to see the untrue and misleading narratives pushed over the last few weeks challenged at the source.

“Although, while we wait for new services, NHS care for trans youth is on hold, the old system was not fit for purpose in terms of supporting trans youth in a timely fashion for puberty blockade and for puberty with peers.”