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Puberty blockers for children may be banned in UK in Tavistock clinic fallout 

The National Health Service in Britain may be set to ban the use of puberty blockers for children and young people amidst growing fears that youngsters are being rushed into sex-change treatments when they are not of an age to make such life-altering decisions. 

The move comes after a clinic facilitating sex-change therapies for children and adolescents was closed, and a leading expert warned that puberty blockers may ‘rewire the neural circuts’ of youg patients.  

The issue has become a key question in the Tory leadership debate, where both leading candidates have pledged to consider restricting the use of puberty blockers for children. 

Candidate Liz Truss said that while she believed “passionately” that adults should have the freedom to lead their lives as they see fit, “it is very important that, while young people are still developing their decision-making capabilities, we protect them from long-term harm”. 

“We have a responsibility to those under 18 to shield them from irreversible decisions that will affect them for the rest of their lives. As prime minister, I would review access to puberty blockers to ensure we are maintaining the right checks and balances in the system to protect our young people,” she added. 

The Telegraph reported Mr Rishi Sunak’s team as saying that he did not believe children should be “rushed down irreversible medical pathways” and felt they should be “protected from life-altering treatments”. The former chancellor added that he was concerned that some doctors had been warning about the dangers of puberty-blocking drugs.

Yesterday, the NHS announced that the high profile Tavistock transgender clinic for children be shut down after a review found that it is “not safe’.  

Tavistock had been assessing Irish child and adolescent patients for at least a decade, with a team from the English clinic visiting Crumlin hospital on a monthly basis until recently. 

The clinic, which had become the subject of considerable controversy after claims that it was “unquestioning ” where children sought to change gender, was found “not a safe or viable long-term option” by an independent review earlier this year. 

The review, led by Dr Hilary Cass, a consultant paediatrician, warned that medics in the Tavistock clinic felt “under pressure to adopt an unquestioning affirmative approach” to gender identity, instead of adopting a process of clinic assessment with young people who might have expressed some form of gender dysphoria. 

In 2020, the clinic was rated “inadequate” – with the UK’s health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission, giving it the lowest rating possible. 

The Inspectors said that “many of the young people waiting for or receiving a service were very vulnerable and at risk of self-harm. Despite this, staff often did not assess the risks presented by young people and their families.”

Dr Cass warned that puberty blockers could cause a “rewiring of neural circuits” and affect parts of the brain responsible for decision-making and judgment.The NHS has now committed to begin urgent research on the effects of the drugs. 

The number of children being referred to Tavistock and then placed on puberty blockers has rocketed in recent times, with more than 5,000 in 2021-22 compared to 250 a decade earlier. 

The NHS now says the services will operate in eight regional centres, and that recommendations from the Cass review which state that “staff should maintain a broad clinical perspective in order to embed the care of children and young people with gender uncertainty within a broader child and adolescent health context’, will be followed. 

“The ongoing work of Dr Cass’ review, alongside our experience in establishing the Early Adopter services, will help shape the development of the new model of care, national standards and a new national service specification against which regional services can be commissioned,” an NHS England spokesperson said.

“We will engage and consult fully on this service specification in due course.”

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