NHS England stops prescribing puberty blockers for children

NHS England has announced that children will no longer be prescribed puberty blockers at gender identity clinics, except as part of clinical research trials. This decision comes after a public consultation on the issue and an independent review of gender identity services for children under 18 in 2020. The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), is closing at the end of March following increased scrutiny.

The review found a lack of long-term evidence on the outcomes of children prescribed puberty blockers, as well as a need to move towards regional options for better support. As a result, two new NHS services will open in Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool in early April.

Health Minister Maria Caulfield welcomed the decision, stating that children's safety and well-being are paramount. The consultation on the future of these services received over 4,000 responses, with a range of perspectives from members of the public, patients, parents, trans adults, and clinicians. NHS England's national director of specialised commissioning, John Stewart, noted that responses were polarized, reflecting the ongoing debate around puberty blockers.

While some have criticized the decision, such as transgender youth charity Mermaids, former Prime Minister Liz Truss has welcomed it ahead of her Health and Equality Acts (Amendment) Bill, which includes a ban on the prescription of body-altering hormones to children questioning their sex. The most commonly used puberty blockers suppress the production of hormones and NHS England plans to conduct a study on their use by December.

Overall, the decision to limit the prescription of puberty blockers to children and focus on evidence-based care has sparked a range of reactions and is part of a broader ongoing conversation about gender identity services for young people.


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