Transgender News

Sandyford Young People’s Gender Service announces they will no longer be referring under 18s for endocrine treatments

Graham Robson April 18, 2024

Scottish Trans and the Equality Network have reacted after Sandyford Young People’s Gender Service, based at NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, announced that they will no longer be referring under 18s for endocrine treatments, which means people using the service will no longer be prescribed puberty blockers (which pause pubertal changes), nor will 16 or 17 year olds be prescribed testosterone or oestrogen (which have masculinising or feminising effects on secondary sexual characteristics).

This follows a similar announcement by NHS England made last month on puberty blockers, and indeed goes further than the NHS England position by stopping referrals for testosterone and oestrogen for 16 and 17 year olds.

In a release, Scottish Trans said: “This decision has been taken within the context where the reality of trans people’s experiences and lives is questioned almost daily in some of the media and some political circles. This makes us worry that the decision has been influenced by that context rather than solely through consideration of the best interests of trans children and young people.

“Currently, it is incredibly rare for children or young people to be prescribed puberty blockers. Between 2011 and 2023, 87 children or young people were prescribed them[1] [2], averaging seven new prescriptions per year.

“In our experience of hearing from families supporting young people to access gender identity services, and from people who have used the young person’s service, they paint a picture of a service that is extremely cautious. Many people think that the process of exploration and assessment is too slow, and some feel like that caution had a detrimental impact on them, or their child. That being trans, living true to themselves, and accessing endocrine treatment as part of that, were all positive, hopeful, joyful things – but that the journey to get there took longer than was right for them, causing them pain along the way.

“Waiting times for the service have also continued to grow. Children and young people getting a first appointment today will have been waiting for around four years. Four years of course feels like a lifetime to a young person, and these delays mean that for many their puberty is over before they even get a first appointment with the gender service, or they never have an appointment there at all between joining the waiting list and turning 18.

“The exceptionally rare and cautious choice of puberty blocker prescription, made for a small number after huge waits, is being wrongly painted by some as though it was commonplace and rushed. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Vic Valentine, Manager of Scottish Trans added: “We’re saddened that this change will result in some young people being unable to access the care they need at all, or having to wait even longer for it. We want every child or young person to get the individualised care that’s right for them at the time that’s right for them. We don’t think this decision will make that possible.”

“We note that the announcement mentions the potential for further research into the use of puberty blockers, in partnership with NHS England. There is widespread concern that neither the research programme, nor how it will be designed, are finalised yet. We call on the Young People’s Gender Service and the Scottish Government to urgently prioritise resourcing high quality, ethical research, to make sure that no child or young person is denied the care they need.”