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NHS to stop giving puberty blockers to under-18s except for research purposes

Puberty blockers to be given only in clinical research.

By Emily Maskell & Jamie Tabberer

The trans Pride flag blowing in the wind
The trans Pride flag (Image: Wiki)

The National Health Service will soon stop providing puberty blockers for under-18s, except from “as part of clinical research”.

The NHS is currently able to provide puberty blockers to trans people under 18. These act as a way to “pause puberty” development and delay physical changes.

However, the NHS released a document last Friday (9 June 2023) detailing new plans. The report is titled ‘Consultation report for the interim service specification for specialist gender incongruence services for children and young people’.

Moving forward, the medication would only be accessible to children participating in clinical trials

“Outside of a research setting, puberty suppressing hormones should not be routinely commissioned for children and adolescents,” the report says.

The NHS describes the new guidelines as an “interim policy.” Moving forward, the medication would then only be available to children participating in clinical trials.

Change will come into effect when clinics replacing the Gender Identity and Development Service (Gids) begin to open this year.

No patients being treated by the current Gids service will be affected.

Puberty blockers are described by the NHS as having “physically reversible” effects. However, “it is not known what the psychological effects may be.”

An NHS spokesperson told the BBC: “The NHS is now engaging on the proposal that puberty blockers will not be made routinely available outside of research.”

“We will develop a study into the impact of puberty blockers on gender dysphoria in children and young people with early-onset gender dysphoria, which aims to be up and running in 2024.”

A clinical study to look at the drugs’ impact will also begin soon, run by the new Children and Young People’s Gender Dysphoria Research and Oversight Board.

“We will develop a study into the impact of puberty blockers on gender dysphoria in children and young people”

Families will also be “strongly discouraged” from obtaining gender-affirming drugs such as hormones, from “unregulated sources” or online.

The new restrictions arrive as Dr Hilary Cass’s report (February 2022) called for significant changes to be put in place. This, she wrote, was over “gaps in the evidence base” about the blockers.

The public consultation on this draft interim service specification ran for 45 days from 20 October to 4 December 2022. It received 5,183 responses in total.