Ex-Mermaids CEO shuts down suggestion Tavistock gender clinic links were inappropriate

Tavistock Centre

The former head of Mermaids has rejected any notion that the charity has undue influence over the NHS Tavistock gender clinic.

Mermaids and its ex-CEO, Susie Green, are the subject of a sensationalised Telegraph article over their relationship with NHS England’s sole gender clinic for young people, the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at the Tavistock and Portman NHS trust in London.

It’s the latest in a long line of critical Telegraph articles on Mermaids, which has previously been described by trans charity Gendered Intelligence as part of a “concerted attack”.

The article, based on Freedom of Information act disclosures, purports to “lay bare” interactions between Susie Green, who was the chief executive of Mermaids for six years until she left in 2022, and then-director of GIDS, doctor Polly Carmichael.

It highlights how Green was consulted for a redraft of the clinic’s service specification, which came into force in 2016, and how Mermaids made a small number of referrals to the clinic.

In a statement seen by PinkNews, Green questioned why anybody would find it out of the ordinary for Mermaids, the UK’s largest charity for trans young people, to work alongside the only NHS England trust providing services to the same groups. 

You may like to watch

Green said: “As the parent of a trans child (now thankfully a thriving adult), I have dedicated the past two decades to understanding the challenges in this area. 

“During this time, I have not only campaigned for my own child, in order to get her the care she desperately needed, but I have also supported thousands of families. This experience has made me a subject matter expert.

“It is in this capacity as a subject matter expert that I have been invited to represent other parents and their children by various bodies including the Tavistock.”

Mermaids CEO supported puberty blockers being considered on a case-by-case basis

Green said it’s “not a secret” she was involved in the redraft of the clinic’s service specification, which came into force in 2016, because her participation was clearly “specified in the service specification when it was released”. 

“I applied to be a stakeholder for the review, as the CEO of the largest UK (and probably European) charity to support transgender children, young people and their families,” she wrote. “I represented the lived experience of thousands of young people and their families.”

Green noted that she also supported the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) in developing their most recent Standards of Care.

The Telegraph article was keen to highlight that the specification recommended puberty blockers be considered for children under the age of 12 “if they are in established puberty”. As puberty blockers delay the onset of puberty, they are typically given at its onset. GIDS says the treatment is physically reversible.

Green said she “very pleased” that Tavistock “removed an arbitrary age range” for the treatment and instead “agreed to look at each individual young person and their unique circumstances”.

She said this was a “welcome change” in line with international best practice. 

Mermaids CEO says she had typical relationship with Tavistock doctor

The Telegraph also focused on Green, as Mermaids CEO, having a “direct line” to Carmichael, by which she could discuss referrals made to the clinic by Mermaids.

Green said it’s not uncommon that “in other areas of NHS care that there are relationships between the service provider and charities that support the same demographic”.

“I remember talking to the Autistic Society CEO about exactly this in the past. It’s kind of the norm,” she said. 

“And if you checked, then you would see that referrals could be made by any youth group supporting trans gender young people, as well as schools, social workers, and a myriad of other referral pathways. So, again, your point is?”

The Telegraph also took issue with Mermaids being involved in at least two studies conducted by Tavistock, with Green sitting on an advisory group for the research in 2015. 

For all these points, Green once again questioned: “Why wouldn’t we be involved?”

“Mermaids did and still does represent thousands of trans and gender diverse young people and their families,” she wrote. 

“Stakeholder engagement is a staple of good research. Why wouldn’t they want to know how our (often joint) service users felt?”

The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust told PinkNews that, like many NHS services, GIDS “works with a range of third sector patient support groups and charities that have different views about how the service can improve”.

“The service has a clear position of independence,” Tavistock said.

“It works on a case-by-case basis with every young person, their family and local services, working thoughtfully and holistically with them to explore their individual situation, with no expectation of what the right outcome for them might be.”

Mermaids said its primary focus is to “support the mental and physical wellbeing of trans and non-binary young people throughout the UK”.

It added that it’s “absolutely appropriate that as part of that work” Mermaids supports the “development of services, including by participating in, or otherwise supporting, research that is paving the way for healthcare for trans young people”.

“This type of consultation with charities for specifications, involvement in research, and links with providers, is a standard approach used by commissioners and providers across the public sector, in fields as diverse as health, education and criminal justice,” Mermaids said.

“We were a recognised referral partner by the Tavistock (as were many other organisations supporting trans youth), and made a very small number of referrals between 2016 and 2020, when we last referred a young person.

“Furthermore, any decisions regarding any medical intervention or treatments for any individual have always been made at a clinical level, and the charity cannot, and would not want to intervene with that process.”

The Telegraph said that initially, the Tavistock clinic “claimed that it did not have emails or minutes of meetings with Ms Green” but after the information regulator threatened court action, it released more than 300 pages.

The clinic told PinkNews that this was down to the fact that it had less than a day to produce the requested information.

“The trust initially performed a search within the limits set by the Freedom of Information Act, which is 18 hours. Conducting a search of this magnitude within the specified timeframe is a challenging task, and the trust produced the results it was able to find within those limits.

“After further instruction from the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office), the trust performed a much more comprehensive search, which took over 300 hours.”

Please login or register to comment on this story.