A UK gender identity clinic that had been used to treat Irish children and young people is to be shut down.
Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust has been ordered to close by next spring, according to reports, following recommendations from an ongoing review of its operations.
The clinic assesses people for potential treatment by way of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormone treatments.
A UK review group, headed by paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass, has recommended a more diverse, regional service. Tavistock is to be replaced by centres at existing children’s hospitals, with more and “strong links to mental health services”.
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Tavistock has been providing an assessment service for Irish children and young people suffering from gender dysphoria, defined by the NHS as a “sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity”.
A High Court case in the UK ultimately led to a cessation of new referrals in 2020 for those aged under 16.
Data provided under the Freedom of Information Act shows that between 2011 and 2021, there were 234 referrals of Irish children and young people to its clinic, an average of 21 a year.
Irish patients historically had access to the UK service through the HSE treatment abroad scheme.
Efforts continue to identify alternative gender identity clinics abroad, while the HSE has also been developing its own domestic service.
Addressing the issue in the Dáil earlier this year, Frank Feighan, Minister of State at the Department of Health, said a proposed model of care for transgender people had been developed by the HSE’s quality improvement division. It recommends a “comprehensive multidisciplinary psychosocial assessment prior to commencement of hormone therapy by endocrinology services”.
It also outlines a framework for the development of national gender clinics.
The HSE did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding the progress of a domestic care service. Nor did the NHS immediately respond to requests for comment regarding the closure or recommended replacement.
In March, an interim report by the Tavistock review team said it “had become increasingly clear that a single specialist provider model is not a safe or viable long-term option in view of concerns about lack of peer review and the ability to respond to the increasing demand”.