Plans for a lengthy review of services at NHS Scotland’s gender clinic for children have been criticised by campaigners calling for immediate action.
NHS Healthcare Improvement Scotland has been ordered by the Scottish Government to report on the Sandyford clinic by the end of next year, amid pressure for the Glasgow clinic to close, following the announced closure of NHS England’s own Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) last month.
Critics say Sandyford follows the same model of clinical practice as GIDS, which has long been accused of steering gender-confused children towards medical and surgical transition, rather than attempting to address any psychological issues which may be present – a model that is increasingly discredited.
Consultant psychiatrist Dr Bell, who rose to prominence after writing a whistleblowing report on GIDS, questioned the need for delay.
He said any mention of gender dysphoria at the Sandyford will “motor” children on to “the wrong model, ignore their other problems and risk putting them quickly onto a pathway to transition which many of them may regret”.
Detransitioner and former Sandyford patient Sinead Watson cautiously welcomed the investigation, but said: “This should have happened years ago.”
She added: “There is absolutely no excuse why we have been offering cross-sex hormones to women with a history of depression and anxiety and eating disorders.”
Campaign group For Women Scotland highlighted an interim report from the high-profile Cass Review of clinical practice in England, which had outlined serious failings at GIDS.
The group said: “In light of the findings from the Cass report that the similar service in London is to be closed down as not a safe or viable treatment centre there is no reason why distressed children in Scotland should receive poorer NHS treatment.”
It added: “if the Scottish Government and the Scottish NHS do not take immediate action to focus on holistic treatment and mental health instead of affirming medical transition then they are liable for gross medical negligence.”
Last week, former Scottish Green Party leader Robin Harper OBE and SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC called on Scotland’s National Clinical Director to shut the Sandyford as a matter of urgency.
In a letter, they said that the Cass Review made it clear that the current clinical model being followed at Sandyford puts children and young people “at significant risk”.
Harper and Cherry called on the Director “to follow NHS England and announce its closure and replacement with local services which will take a more holistic approach”.