NHS England to set up review group probing use of puberty blockers for under 16s

NHS England will set up an independent review panel to evaluate the prescription of puberty blockers for those under the age of 16.

The move follows a March High Court ruling that allows parents of transgender children to consent to puberty blocker treatment on their child’s behalf without the consent of a court. However, the judge added that “additional safeguards” may need to be incorporated into the decision-making process.

According to NHS England, the Review Group was set up in response to the proposal of “additional safeguards” as a “provisional measure” to ensure that decisions are made according to a “robust” process.

In a statement on its website, NHS England said: “This group will consist of health and nursing professionals who have expertise in child development, neurodevelopment and mental health, assess capacity and consent, and protect processes.”

The March ruling came in the case of a 15-year-old identified as XY who was born a boy but lives as a girl and is treated with puberty blockers.

The judge was asked to consider the question following the landmark High Court decision in Keira Bell last December, whether children can consent to the use of puberty blockers.

Ms. Bell started taking the medication when she was 16 years old before “transforming”.

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However, she took legal action against the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the only UK Gender Identity Development (GIDS) service treating transgender children, arguing that children cannot properly consent to taking puberty blockers.

The judges ruled in Ms. Bell’s favor, saying that children under the age of 16 need to understand “the immediate and long-term consequences of treatment” in order to approve the use of puberty blockers.

NHS England said the review group would aim to ensure that GIDS performed an improved clinical review of each patient and provided information on the risks and benefits of puberty blockers.

The panel said, “If the review group is satisfied with the decision-making process, there is no obligation on GIDS clinicians to seek a best interest decision from the court, but they could do so anyway.

“If the review group raises concerns about the decision-making process, the Tavistock must seek a ruling in the best interests of the court to confirm the start or continuation of treatment.”

It is not clear when the review group will be set up, however NHS England said more details would be available “in due course”.


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