Scotland intends to continue providing puberty blockers for young trans people, following a UK court ruling which will prevent those under 16 from accessing the hormone treatment. The new regulations came about when Kiera Bell, 23, brought action against The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust (which houses the Gender Identity Development Services/GIDS) after taking puberty blockers at age 16, before later detransitioning in her early 20s.
However, Scotland is not bound by the ruling. The Sandyford Young People Gender Service, which is the country’s sole youth gender clinic, told local news outlet, The Scotsman, that it would not be reviewing its services for young trans people and would continue issuing puberty blockers as normal. Consultant psychiatrist Dr Gerber, clinical lead of Sandyford’s Gender Identity Service, said it would be very distressing for young trans people to wait “months or years” for their case to be heard, while they are unable to access puberty blockers, adding: “By that stage, someone could be well into puberty, then it’s too late and you’ve ‘missed the boat’. That’s the concern.”
He said despite the myth that puberty blockers are dangerous for children, that only a “small handful” of trans teens are prescribed them a year – around 30 out of hundreds of patients in any given year in Scotland. He continued: “There are international guidelines for prescribing hormones that we follow. If a person is young, we would involve the families and other people in that assessment in discussing the medical treatment as you would with any other treatment. We take many factors and opinions into account. That would be the safeguard.”
In England, Dr Adrian Harrop from Liverpool, and GenderGP, a private healthcare provider for trans UK citizens, have both appealed against the recent court ruling, on the basis it is damaging to the mental wellbeing of trans youth. Dr Harrop said: “It makes me terribly worried that there is now nothing there for those children, and nothing that can be done to help them. Parents are being left at a point where they’re having to struggle to cope with these children who are in a real state of distress and anxiety. Sadly, there is a very real risk of seeing more suicides.”