News (World)

NHS will no longer prescribe puberty blockers for children in England

Doctor in foreground holding sample of prescription or recipe for drug, other hand indicates designation of prescription medication, which means issuing medicines by pharmacist only on prescription
Photo: Shutterstock

England’s National Health Service (NHS) announced Tuesday that it will halt puberty blocker prescriptions for transgender minors.

The change follows an ongoing independent review that found there was “not enough evidence” that the hormone treatments, which block the physical changes of puberty, are safe or effective.

Puberty blockers will now only be available as part of research.

The BBC reports that the new policy will prohibit the “routine” prescription of puberty blockers to minors but allow individual clinicians to continue to apply to have the drugs funded for minor patients on a case-by-case basis.

Last June, the NHS England, one of the United Kingdom’s four National Health Service systems, instituted an “interim policy” to ban the medication for patients under 18 except in exceptional circumstances, following publication of portions of the ongoing investigation into the NHS England’s trans youth services.  

The single NHS clinic devoted to gender-affirming care for minors in England will shut down this spring. NHS England said it would be replaced by at least two regional service centers focused on a “holistic and localized approach” to trans youth healthcare.

The independent review of the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), run by an NHS Foundation Trust, followed referrals to the service skyrocketing from 250 per year to over 5,000 in 2022.

On the NHS England website, puberty blockers are described as a “physically reversible treatment if stopped,” though it’s “not known what the psychological effects may be.” 

The Conservative government’s health minister, Maria Caulfield, praised the decision. “We have always been clear that children’s safety and wellbeing is paramount, so we welcome this landmark decision by the NHS.”

“Ending the routine prescription of puberty blockers will help ensure that care is based on evidence, expert clinical opinion and is in the best interests of the child,” Caulfield added.

British LGBTQ+ rights group Stonewall emphasized the new policy will put trans kids already in care at risk, and potentially deny questioning youth positive health outcomes.

“All trans young people deserve access to high quality, timely healthcare,” a spokesperson said.

“For some, an important part of this care comes in the form of puberty blockers, a reversible treatment that delays the onset of puberty, prescribed by expert endocrinologists, giving the young person extra time to evaluate their next steps. We are concerned that NHS England will be putting new prescriptions on hold until a research protocol is up and running at the end of 2024.”

Notorious transphobe and Harry Potter author JK Rowling expressed her support for the decision, claiming in a post on X that trans kids and their families aren’t “capable of giving informed consent,” while predatory doctors keep “on operating and prescribing.”

“Prison terms for doctors experimenting on troubled minors are more than fine with me,” she added.

In the U.S., anti-trans Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA) reacted to the decision by promoting her own legislation to ban hormone treatments for minors.

“I wish Congress was bold enough to move forward with my Protect Children’s Innocence Act to ban puberty blockers and end child genital mutilation surgeries,” Green posted to X. “Protecting our kids from these life altering procedures shouldn’t be partisan!”

Contrary to Green’s statement, gender-affirming surgeries are rarely, if ever, performed on minors. Every major medical and mental health association in the U.S. has endorsed gender-affirming care, including puberty blockers, as evidence based, safe, and necessary for the treatment of gender dysphoria in young people.

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