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Health secretary accuses NHS gender care influenced by ‘cultural values’

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Wes Streeting challenges plans for improving mental health assessments amidst growing scrutiny over NHS gender care 

In a recent parliamentary discussion concerning NHS gender care in light of the Cass review, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins claimed that a significant surge in gender referrals was “driven by myth,” contrary to evidence prioritizing “safety and biological reality.”

Atkins highlighted that the NHS’s primary gender identity development service, located at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, had received fewer than 60 referrals for children and young people in 2009.

However, there was a substantial increase in referrals for puberty blockers and cross-sex hormone therapy, with a 34 percent rise noted.

By 2016, the number of referrals skyrocketed to over 1,700 annually, with more than half of them being teenage girls.

This figure surged to over 5,000 children and young people by 2022.

Attributing the “exponential rise” to “myth” and “fashionable cultural values,” Atkins criticized the shift away from evidence-based practices, emphasizing the importance of considering safety and biological reality.

She also raised concerns about the lack of thoughtful consideration for the broader needs of teenagers, particularly girls, who comprised three-quarters of the referrals and criticized the tendency for near-uniform prescriptions to address various issues, including neurodivergent conditions and childhood traumas, without adequate assessment.

These remarks follow with the release of the final report of the Cass review, which includes 27 recommendations for improving access and standardizing care for gender dysphoria.

The report proposes the establishment of regional multidisciplinary centers to facilitate smoother transitions between adolescent and adult services.

During the discussion, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for health and social care, Wes Streeting, challenged the health secretary on plans to reduce waiting times for assessments of mental health and neurodevelopmental conditions.

Streeting characterized the findings of the Cass review as scandalous.

“It is a scandal that children and young people are waiting far too long—often years—for care while their wellbeing deteriorates and their childhood slips away.”

Furthermore, Atkins warned private providers about the highly regulated nature of prescribing, noting that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) had not licensed any gender clinic to prescribe hormone blockers or cross-sex hormones to those under 16.

She cautioned that clinics engaging in such practices could face serious regulatory consequences, including license revocation and clinician disbarment.

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