New gender identity clinic for trans youth delayed further

A picture of the sign outside The Tavistock Centre, which was the sole provider of gender identity services and healthcare for trans youth and children on NHS England

The opening of the first regional NHS gender identity clinic for trans youth has been further delayed, pushing into April next year.

Last year, NHS England announced it would close its sole dedicated youth gender clinic at Tavistock and Portman NHS foundation trust, named the Gender and Identity Development Service (GIDS), in a move towards a “holistic and localised approach” to trans youth healthcare.

The NHS projected for GIDS to be closed by spring 2023 and replaced with two new regional centres. The southern hub was set to open this autumn, with the northern hub opening in 2024.

However, in May, it was revealed that the replacement clinics weren’t ready so the Tavistock clinic would remain open for the rest of the year. 

Now, the opening of new regional gender identity clinics in England has been pushed back even further.

A spokesperson for the southern hub – a partnership between Evelina London Children’s Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital and the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust – told the BBC that setting up a “completely new service” was “complex”. 

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“We are also focused on recruitment, training and ensuring good data collection which supports the developing research, and progress made in these areas will determine how quickly it will be possible to start seeing new patients off the waiting list,” the spokesperson said. 

The southern trans youth healthcare clinic is now working towards full mobilisation by the “beginning of April 2024”, the Independent reported. 

PinkNews has asked NHS England and the clinics involved in the northern hub – a partnership between Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital – to confirm a timeline on for its mobilisation. 

The delay is devastating news to the thousands of trans young people waiting for access to gender-affirming healthcare on NHS England. 

Over 3,500 young people were referred through to receive gender-affirming healthcare at the Tavistock clinic in 2021-2022. The year before, 2020-2021, saw 2,401 referrals, and 2,750 trans youth were referred to the service in 2019-20.

About 8,000 trans children and young people are on a waiting list to use trans healthcare services through NHS England, according to the BBC. 

In March, GIDS announced it would no longer be holding or managing the waiting list for trans youth healthcare referrals. 

Various people hold up signs calling for trans youth and adults to be protected amid repeated attacks on healthcare rights, closure of gender identity services in England and more in the UK
LGBTQ+ campaigners have repeatedly denounced the lengthy wait times for trans children, young people and adults to access gender-affirming healthcare through the NHS. (Getty)

The closure of the Tavistock clinic followed recommendations from Dr Hilary Cass, who is leading an independent review of gender identity services for trans children and young people.

Dr Cass said it was “increasingly clear” that a sole provider model is “not a safe or viable long-term option”. Instead, she suggested that establishing regional services would better meet patients’ needs. 

Some LGBTQ+ campaigners initially saw the new regional model as a positive. Parents told PinkNews that they had less than optimal experiences with GIDS, describing it an “absolutely broken institution”

But there were still questions about hoe trans healthcare for trans youth would be handled during the transition from GIDS to the new regional centres. 

In February, GIDS staff warned that there’s still “no guarantee that the care plans” healthcare workers agreed with trans youth and their families “will be honoured by future services”. They also highlighted that the “pathway to accessing medical interventions is unknown”. 

An NHS England spokesperson said it has “fully supported” providers to establish the new regional services for trans youth in the country. 

“[These will] implement a fundamentally different model of care based on advice from the independent Cass review, and [we] expect providers to start seeing patients as soon as possible, with full-service mobilisation by April at the latest.”