Scottish ministers face questions over use of puberty blockers

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher has written to the chief executive of NHS Scotland on the issue.

Scottish Government faces questions over use of puberty blockers PA Media

Scottish Government ministers have been accused of having “buried their heads in the sand” on medical issues by refusing to halt the use of controversial puberty blockers for young people questioning their gender identity.

With NHS England having confirmed children south of the border will no longer routinely be prescribed such treatments at gender identity clinics, Scottish Tory deputy leader Meghan Gallacher says there needs to be an “urgent evaluation” of services in Scotland to “ensure the wellbeing of young people in Scotland isn’t going to be less protected”.

The Conservative made the plea in a letter to Caroline Lamb, the chief executive of NHS Scotland, after ministers refused to make a statement on the issue to Holyrood.

It comes in the wake of the Cass Review into gender identity services in England and Wales, which found children had been let down by a lack of research and evidence on medical interventions in gender care.

With the report also stating there was “not enough evidence” puberty blockers are safe or effective, Gallacher accused the Scottish Government of ignoring its findings.

While the Cass Review was conducted in England and Wales, the Conservative MSP insisted its findings were “just as relevant and important here in Scotland”.

She said: “The Cass Review concerningly found that children accessing gender services have been failed. This isn’t acceptable.

“The SNP have buried their heads in the sand and refused to pause puberty blockers. Now they have rejected my request for a ministerial statement on this report.

“The SNP Government cannot ignore the significant recommendations made by the review.”

Retired consultant paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass led the review into gender identity services in England and Wales, which was published last week.PA Media

Gallacher added: “Our priority must be ensuring the wellbeing and safeguarding of vulnerable young people.

“That is why I have written to Caroline Lamb, the chief executive of NHS Scotland, asking for their response to the review.

“Parents and young people urgently need clarity regarding this sensitive topic. Children don’t need the Government or health service sweeping this under the rug, they need answers.”

In her letter to Lamb, the Tory deputy leader called for a “serious and open discussion” about what happens next with services for the increasing number of children and young people who are “experiencing gender dysphoria or questioning their identity”.

With specialist gender identity services only available on the NHS at the Sandyford clinic in Glasgow, Gallacher said the “rapid increase” in young people questioning their gender had left the clinic “struggling to cope with the rising numbers”.

Claiming that the Scottish Government had been “slow to respond to the recommendations from the Cass review as well as concerns regarding lack of sufficient evidence for medical interventions such as puberty blockers”, she urged Lamb to publish any evidence used by the NHS in Scotland to support the use of puberty suppressing hormones.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government has regular engagement with NHS health boards, regarding work to improve gender identity healthcare, including care for young people, and has been clear that decisions on how healthcare is delivered in Scotland are best made by health boards and clinicians. We have also been clear that NHS health boards are thoroughly considering the evidence from the Cass review.

“If changes are made to pathways and services following consideration of new evidence it is right that any patients directly impacted by those changes should be the first to hear about them – sensitively and from the services caring for them.”

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