Doctors warn ‘NHS is failing young trans people’ amid row over Tavistock gender clinic closure

A person holds up a sign reading 'support trans kids' during a protest in Utah

Staff at NHS England’s sole dedicated gender clinic for young trans people have warned there’s “no guarantee” of future care for their patients.

It was announced the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) would be shut down and replaced by two new regional centres back in July 2022.

The move came after a recommendation by Dr Hilary Cass during her review of the NHS’ provision of gender-affirming healthcare for young trans people. Dr Cass noted that the current model at GIDS was unable to keep up with demand, resulting in spiralling wait times, and that the care should instead by provided by regional centres “led by experienced providers of tertiary paediatric care to ensure a focus on child health and development”.

The new centres were due to open this spring following the closure of GIDS but, according to VICE World News, whistleblowing NHS doctors had said the deadline to open the new regional centres was “totally unachievable”, claiming trans kids would be left without any kind of healthcare support.

In response to the VICE report, sources at Tavistock and Portman told PinkNews that NHS England was yet to serve a notice on the clinic and claimed that services were set to continue for at least another six months. The source reiterated that the clinic would only close its doors once all patients currently being seen are safely transferred to the new regional centres.

Now, in a new open letter endorsed by at least 50 of the 85 members of staff workings at GIDS, concerns have been raised once again over the continued healthcare for young, trans patients as a result of closing the clinic. Staff also said they didn’t know if they’d have jobs in the new services.

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“Many of our families have been attending the service for years and have established therapeutic relationships with GIDS staff. These relationships will be lost,” the letter said.

“Currently, there is no guarantee that the care plans we agree today will be honoured by future services. Moreover, the pathway to accessing medical interventions is unknown.

“Some of our families, who were happy to work with GIDS with a view to considering accessing medical interventions, have told us that they have taken it upon themselves to start treatment privately.”

The letter added: “We believe the statements by NHS England that they will be ‘improving and expanding services’, alongside the identified need to ‘stabilise current service provision for patients’, are misleading.

“We feel the lack of information, transparency and accountability is unacceptable and irresponsible and is having a significant impact on the safety of patients, staff wellbeing and the service we provide.”

‘Our waiting lists are paused’

One NHS doctor, speaking anonymously, told Vice World News: “There are no employees signed up to move, there is no training for wider NHS staff, and our waiting lists are paused.

“The reality is that we have to accept there is currently no NHS service for trans young people, and there is unlikely to be any service made available to them in the near future.”

The doctor – worried about the backlash from anti-trans groups – went on to say they could only offer minimal support to vulnerable patients until they reach the age of 18 and are able to access adult gender services.

“All I can really do now is wrap these trans kids up in cotton wool through these difficult years with no support and get them as ready as possible to get into adult gender services when they hit 18,” they explained.

“It’s hard to not think that this was a deliberate act by NHS England, and they’re deliberately hurting trans children for a political win.”

A general view outside The Tavistock Centre and a sign for the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) clinic at Tavistock and Portman NHS foundation trust. It is UK's only dedicated gender identity clinic for trans children and young people
Contrary to a recent report published by VICE World News, The Tavistock clinic denies its closing in March. (Getty/Guy Smallman)

‘Trans young people are being failed’

The 2022 independent review which criticised the Tavistock clinic concluded that its services needed to be reformed. The closure of the clinic means that people will only be treated if they were referred in 2019 or earlier, according to reports.

Rated “inadequate” by the Care Quality Commission watchdog, it’s estimated that more than 5,000 young people had been waiting for the service for several years.

Clinical staff working for GIDS have said NHS England is “failing” young trans people.

A spokesperson said: “We’re six months down the line, and NHS England has still given us no indication whatsoever about what’s happening to our jobs, or our pay, and whether we’ll be able to transfer into the new services.

“As a result, lots of people have resigned and left the service, and that’s meant we’re even more under-resourced and we’re struggling with our growing caseloads.

“Trans young people are being failed by NHS England because of this move. They said by the end of March we would have new services up and running to move these young people into, but that’s never going to happen.”