The HSE is “exploring the availability” of other gender identity clinics to treat Irish children and young people abroad after a UK clinic it had been using was told to close down.
Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust assesses people for potential treatment by way of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormone treatments.
Under the HSE treatment abroad scheme, the clinic was used to treat 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”.
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.
However, Tavistock has now been ordered to close by next spring, according to reports in the UK, following recommendations from an ongoing review of its operations.
The HSE told The Irish Times it was aware of the news on Thursday of the planned closure of the clinic in London.
“In anticipation of this news we have been working to ensure the CHI [Children’s Health Ireland] gender identity service for children continues and have been exploring the availability of the service in other EU jurisdictions,” a spokeswoman said.
The HSE is “working to develop this service in Ireland” and has “finalised the premises and allocated the multidisciplinary staff”.
The appointment of a consultant psychiatrist to manage the service is still required after being advertised twice without success.
“We are working on different options to resolve this problem and will continue to try and recruit appropriately trained staff to develop our own service in Ireland,” the HSE’s spokeswoman said.
A “robust and agreed care pathway for young people with gender dysphoria needs to be developed for Irish patients in Ireland, in line with international best practice,” said CHI, which governs services at Crumlin and other children’s hospitals.
“It is equally important that the care pathway applied to children and adolescents is compatible with the adult service to which they are likely to transition to, in order to provide a comprehensive, sensitive and safe service for these young people,” CHI added in a statement.
The existing pathway in Ireland for children generally begins with an approach by the child and family to their GP who may then refer to the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).
Cases are initially managed between the family, GP, CAMHS team and school services.