The Daily Telegraph

Tavistock ‘ignored’ trans link to autism


THE Tavistock clinic ignored evidence that 97.5 per cent of children seeking sex changes had autism, depression or other problems that might have explained their unhappines­s, a new book claims.

Staff at the NHS facility were so determined to push a pro-transgende­r policy that children who might not have been trans were treated as “collateral damage” by clinicians who labelled doubters “transphobi­c”, a whistleblo­wer says.

Seven in 10 children had more than five “associated features” such as abuse, anxiety, eating disorders or bullying, and a social worker claims that as few as one in 50 children treated at the clinic would have stayed transgende­r for life if they had not been given drug therapy after referral by Tavistock.

One clinical psychologi­st who worked at Tavistock was “horrified” at the possibilit­y that highly vulnerable children were wrongly being given irreversib­le drug treatments following referral by Tavistock, but discussion of the subject was shut down by colleagues, she said.

The claims are made in Time to Think: The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Tavistock’s Gender Service for Children, by Hannah Barnes, a BBC Newsnight journalist, which is published on Feb 23. The book paints a picture of a clinic that became overwhelme­d by demand and came under the increasing influence of transgende­r charities.

Children as young as 10 were referred to specialist­s with a view to them being prescribed puberty-blocking drugs, and others were referred after as little as 20 minutes’ consultati­on, the book says.

The NHS’S Gender Identity Developmen­t Service for children (Gids), which is based at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust in London, will close this year after it was criticised in an independen­t review. Less than 2 per cent of children in the UK are thought to have an autism spectrum disorder, but according to Gids’s data, about 35 per cent of its referrals “present with moderate to severe autistic traits”.

In 2000, the only clinical audit of patients carried out by Gids found that more than 25 per cent of referrals had spent time in care, compared with 0.67 per cent of the general population. Children referred to Gids were 10 times more likely than the national average to have a registered sex offender as a parent, while 42 per cent had lost a parent through death or separation.

Anna Hutchinson, a former Gids clinician who was interviewe­d for the book, “feared she may be contributi­ng to a medical scandal, where an NHS service was not stopping to think what else might be going on for so many of these vulnerable children”, the author notes.

A spokesman for Tavistock said: “Only the minority of young people seen in the service are referred for any physical interventi­ons.”

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