The Scottish Mail on Sunday
5,500 children now on waiting list for gender swap treatment after post-lockdown surge
THE number of children lining up for gender-change treatment on the NHS has soared by more than a fifth since the Covid lockdowns, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
According to new meeting minutes uncovered by this newspaper, there are about 5,500 children on the waiting list for treatment at the controversial Tavistock and Portman Trust’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) in London.
Senior figures at the NHS trust have expressed fears ‘the list had grown substantially during the lockdown’ and admitted it was a huge ‘preoccupation’ for the Board of Trustees.
Last night, Stephanie Davies-Arai founder of campaign group Transgender Trend said of the possible impact of lockdowns: ‘Life stopped really, so adolescents at that stage in their lives, where they’re really searching for their identity, turn online.
‘They’re bombarded with messages about being trans and that all of their problems and insecurities and anxieties are because they’re trans.’
The new figure of 5,500 is a massive increase on an estimate of the waiting list made last year.
In January 2021, the Care Quality Commission reported after inspecting GIDS that the list was 4,600.
Paul Burstow, the former Liberal Democrat health minister who chairs the Tavistock trust, said this issue of the growing GIDS waiting list was a ‘preoccupation’ for the Board of Trustees.
It comes as the CQC found numerous failings at the clinic, after a string of whistleblowers raised concerns that the GIDS fails to properly support vulnerable children and has pushed them towards lifechanging sex-change treatments.
Those concerns were echoed in a recent review for the NHS by
Hilary Cass, a former President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
Dr Cass wrote that doctors felt under pressure to adopt an unquestioning approach to children seeking to change their sex.
Her interim review also said a lack of formal clinical guidance and stifled debate have left many medics ‘nervous’ about offering the ‘more robust support’ they want to deliver. The NHS-backed report said the situation meant youngsters are being given the controversial puberty blockers or sex-swap hormones they ask for – when they may benefit more from waiting or other care.
The final Cass Report, due later this year, is expected to spell the end of GIDS as the sole NHS treatment centre for gender issues in England.
Instead, regional NHS bodies will be told to establish their own clinics and services. GIDS has seen a dramatic rise in its annual caseload over the last decade.
Just 138 children were referred for treatment in 2010/11. That had grown to 2,383 in 2020/21, a 17-fold increase. At the start of the 2010s, the majority of children referred for treatment were male-born, but female-born patients now make up most of the caseload. Reasons for that shift are not known, but some experts say that it is part of a wider mental health crisis among British girls, who are more likely to report anxiety, depression and self-harm than boys.
Last night Baroness Nicholson, a vocal campaigner on trans issues, called for ‘slow’ and ‘calm’ assessment of children grappling with their gender.
‘Part of a wider mental health crisis among girls’