GIDS (Gender Identity Development Service), located at the Tavistock, has experienced significant media scrutiny in recent months due to the Cass Review interim report which was published last year. It recommended significant changes to the services GIDS provides and marked it for closure in 2022.
Professor Gary Butler, a consultant endocrinologist and clinical lead for GIDS, recently presented at the European Association for Professions for Transgender Health (EPATH) conference in Dublin about the recommended changes. In clips published by BBC Newsnight, he seemed to disagree with the findings of the Cass Review but has since said he agrees with all the recommendations.
One of the primary concerns about the current provision at Tavistock is the substantial waiting times before patients receive their first appointment – the website currently states that those referred in 2019 are receiving their first appointment. There are significant concerns about the impact of these waiting times and the consequences for young people that do not receive timely assessment and support. For example, research has found that receiving puberty suppressors for young people experiencing gender dysphoria lowers the risk of their committing suicide, and we found in our research, at the University of Birmingham, that transgender young people face particular and significant challenges in comparison to their peers.
The debate around Tavistock does not change the fact that young people depend on receiving quality healthcare and support in a timely manner. Healthcare providers should be following the robust, peer-reviewed, international guidance from the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH). These various treatment options are age/development dependent, usually require parental permission, and are recommended to be provided after substantial assessment of clinicians with appropriate training and experience (WPATH 8). We need to make sure that changes that are made to GIDS and reflect this so that young people received the quality care they need and deserve.