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129 Irish children under-16 referred to ‘unsafe’ Tavistock clinic

Newly released figures show that at least 129 Irish children under the age of 16 were referred to a sex-change clinic which has now been found to be unsafe and is being wound down.

The Tavistock clinic in the UK became the source of much controversy when whistleblowers and former patients said that a gender-affirming approach meant that some children were not properly assessed before beginning them on treatments designed to change their sex.

The figures were released to Independent TD Carol Nolan who was told by the HSE that their Treatment Abroad Scheme had recorded 129 Irish children availing of the scheme to attend Tavistock between 2012 and 2022. 

As noted, the figure of 129 is not, in fact the full number of children involved because the HSE says ‘where referral numbers are 5 or below this data is not released’.

The fallout from the Tavistock scandal continues to concern medical experts and advocates for children, but much of legacy media seems to be uninterested in the controversy.

As previously reported on Gript, Minister Stephen Donnelly was to meet with leading medical experts who had repeatedly warned that Irish children might be harmed by undergoing treatment at the Tavistock clinic in Britain.

The urgent concerns of those experts had previously been ignored.

As Niamh Uí Bhriain noted previously on this platform: “It is outrageous that it has taken a scandal of this proportion to get a Minister for Health to listen to doctors who could see that children were being subjected to possibly unsafe therapies.”

The doctors, who work with the National Gender Service (NGS), were seriously concerned that children were not being properly assessed in the Tavistock-run clinic for gender dysphoria in Crumlin Children’s Hospital, and have tried to raise the alarm regarding the approach since 2019.

The British NHS in announced in July that Tavistock – which facilitated sex-change therapies for children – will be closed down, after an independent review, the Cass report, found the clinic’s approach was unsafe, that it overlooked other mental health problems in children, failed to collect data on the safety of puberty blockers, and did not subject the treatments administered to children to normal quality controls.

One of the most appalling findings was that staff felt under pressure to adopt an “unquestioning affirmative approach” to children who said they desired to change their sex: a life-changing, sometimes irreversible, set of therapies and procedures.

The Sunday Independent has seen a redacted copy of a review or “audit” that one of the medical experts who tried to raise the alarm in Ireland, consultant psychiatrist Ian Schneider, carried out in 2019 on 18 patients who attended Tavistock or Crumlin.

The purpose of Schneider’s audit was to show that children were receiving poor care. His findings were sent to the HSE by psychiatrist Paul Moran.

The findings of that audit should have made the HSE and the government sit up and take immediate notice. But instead it was ignored.

All those who ignored what Schneider found in his audit, should be held to account.

What he reported, and what his colleagues also observed are heartbreaking, especially given that these are often very vulnerable children who needed careful assessment and a holistic approach to treatment which recognised other mental health conditions.

Of the 18, seven had no accompanying assessment report showing their diagnosis and treatment plans. Eleven patients had serious mental health or social problems, aside from gender issues.

In the accompanying email to the HSE, Moran said “it had become clear that the GIDS were not competent to adequately assess children’s suitability for medical transition”.

“It was also clear that there was a high level of co-morbid mental illness, social adversity and functional impairment among these children, which the GIDS assessment either did not recognise, or did not address,” wrote Moran.

Mark Tighe, who has done excellent work in reporting on this scandal, wrote that the audit showed:

Of the 18, seven had no accompanying assessment report showing their diagnosis and treatment plans.

Eleven patients had serious mental health or social problems, aside from gender issues.

In the accompanying email to the HSE, Moran said “it had become clear that the GIDS were not competent to adequately assess children’s suitability for medical transition”.

“It was also clear that there was a high level of co-morbid mental illness, social adversity and functional impairment among these children, which the GIDS assessment either did not recognise, or did not address,”

Dr Moran has also said that some 90% of children now presenting with gender dysphoria have also been diagnosed with autism – a trend also seen in the UK, though it seemed to be unquestioned by Tavistock.

Many of the children whose therapies were shaped by the ‘gender affirmative approach’ would have been put on puberty blockers and then sex hormones – an approach that the British investigation found led to unquestioning and rushed assessments – and that Dr Moran says may have left some children ‘in a heap’.

Some of those children are now in the age cohort where they are being seen as adults by the National Gender Service. Their outcomes, as described by Dr Moran to the Sunday Independent are most distressing.

“We were coming across children who were clearly unwell and who had none of their underlying mental health problems addressed.” “Many of them were not suitable or ready yet to be on hormone treatment. The endocrinologists working in Crumlin recognised that, too.

“They had basically gone over to Tavistock in distress, dropped out of school and started self-harming. They were rushed on to hormones but left sitting at home, not being schooled. Mental health issues were not addressed.”

“There was this total focus on blockers and hormones, but the bigger problems that were pressing in their lives were ignored. By the time they got to us they were often a couple of years sitting in their rooms self-harming.”

Yet no-one – at least no-one with real power, like the Minister or the head of the HSE, or RTE News – would listen to the doctors who tried to shout stop. Gript was one of very few media outlets in this country who reported on the growing unease in the UK around the approach Tavistock had adopted towards very vulnerable children, an approach which seems to have been driven more by ideology than science.

In fact Dr Moran told the Sunday Independent that some “HSE-funded groups have coached patients to “get their stories straight” before being assessed so they have the best chance of being prescribed hormones.” He continued:

“They are being told to deny mental health problems and particularly any history of suicide attempts when they come for assessments”

Some 238 young people in Ireland were sent to Tavistock since 2014 according to the HSE. 32 of those children were under 10 years of age, 2 were just five years old.

In fact, 17 young people were referred in the first five months of 2022 – even though the Cass report was issued in March. Even though the Cass report found Tavistock to be unsafe.

 

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