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NHS England delays puberty suppressing treatments

On March 11 2024 NHS England announced that puberty-suppressing hormones (PSH; sometimes called ‘puberty blockers’) would no longer be provided as part of a standard treatment pathway for youth gender identity services.

PSH may be provided as part of a research protocol via new youth services due to open  this year, but how and when this will happen is not clear.

This means that, from April 2024, new referrals for treatment in youth gender identity services will not be offered PSH. As far as we know, patients who are already receiving PSH or who have been referred for PSH prior to April will still be able to receive them.

We understand the need for more research and better investment in gender identity services. For years, these services - and the healthcare of trans people in general - have been neglected and seriously under-resourced. However, we strongly believe that this is not the right way forward. The global research base tells us that access to timely, age-appropriate gender services is beneficial to trans people of all ages. The UK once had world-leading gender identity services supported by progressive LGBT policy. Now this latest move puts us further out of step with global research and best practice.

This policy won’t significantly change the number of young people who get PSH via the NHS. Last year it was less than a hundred. It will, however, hurt the thousands of young people on waiting lists for these services. 

At a time when trans people are under attack by the government and in the headlines, it sends a message to our young people that politics are more important than their lives. At a time when there is a mental health crisis in our community, it encourages them to give up hope. And at a time when proper healthcare seems increasingly remote, it pressures young people and families into prohibitively expensive private care.

This is distressing news, and it’s understandable to be upset. We want to reassure our community - especially our young people - that we will get through this together. At GI we have dozens of different stories, backgrounds, and experiences. Many of us waited years to get the treatment we needed. Some of us are still waiting. Some of us, like many trans people, aren’t on a medical journey at all. We’ve all found joy and community together, and you can too.

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