By Lucy Middleton
LONDON, July 28 (Openly) - Britain's only dedicated gender identity clinic for transgender children and young people is to close, England's national health service announced on Thursday, in response to recommendations from an expert review.
The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust has been instructed to shut down its Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), NHS England said, which will be replaced by two regional hub services that are expected to be operational by early 2023.
It comes after the review criticised long waiting lists and raised concerns over a lack of consensus about how the health service should assess, diagnose and treat young people seeking gender services.
"The GIDS contract will be brought to a managed close once all young people being seen in GIDS or on the waiting list have been safely transferred to the new services," the Tavistock NHS trust said in a statement.
The Tavistock clinic has faced ballooning waiting lists as the number of young people looking for support over their gender grew. There were over 5,000 referrals to GIDS in 2021-22, compared to 250 in 2011-12, NHS England said.
The clinic has also been at the centre of high-profile legal battles over at what age children should be allowed to access puberty-blocking drugs, with a court last year overturning a ruling that restricted under-16s' access to the treatment.
An ongoing review into child and youth gender identity services by Dr Hilary Cass, a senior pediatrician, had called for a shake-up of the system.
The review raised concerns about the Tavistock's ability to respond to increasing demand for gender identity services, and called for a move away from a single provider model in favour of regional services.
Regional hubs should have a range of specialists that could better provide holistic care, the review found, and lead research to support clinical decision making.
"We are now able to start building a more resilient service by expanding provision and enhancing the focus on quality in terms of clinical effectiveness, safety, and patient experience," said NHS England.
(Reporting by Lucy Middleton; editing by Sonia Elks. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit news.trust.org)
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