'Ideology trumped children's interests', Health Secretary says, as she orders review of 9,000 young trans patients

11 April 2024, 08:37

Victoria Atkins has ordered a review of the 9,000 patients who passed through the Tavistock
Victoria Atkins has ordered a review of the 9,000 patients who passed through the Tavistock. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Kit Heren

Doctors at the controversial NHS clinic for transgender children put ideology over the interests of children, the Health Secretary has said.

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Victoria Atkins said there was a "culture of... intimidation" at the Tavistock, as she ordered the NHS to reveal the fates of the 9,000 young people who were treated at the London clinic.

It comes after a landmark report released on Wednesday found that the NHS' treatment of children with gender dysphoria was "built on shaky foundations".

Among a raft of recommendations, Dr Hilary Cass said that children should not be prescribed powerful hormone drugs and warned that many young people who want to change their gender end up regretting it.

Ms Atkins told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast that Dr Cass' findings were shocking - and said she had been "incredibly brave".

Read more: JK Rowling wouldn't accept apology from Harry Potter stars Daniel Ratcliffe and Emma Watson over trans rights row

Read more: 'There's no such thing as a trans child': Tavistock clinic whistleblower claims doctors have been ‘captured by ideology’

Victoria Atkins: 'Culture of ideology and intimidation was allowed to trump interests of children'

"What she has revealed is that a culture of ideology - and dare I say it, intimidation - was allowed to trump the interests of children and the basis of clinical evidence," the Health Secretary said.

One of Dr Cass' findings was that there was a lack of "robust" data on what had happened to the 9,000 children who were treated at the Tavistock between 2009 and 2020. She called this "unacceptable".

Ms Atkins is said to have met Amanda Pritchard, the head of NHS England, to demand that "nothing less than full co-operation by those clinics in the research is acceptable".

She told Nick: "What I want to ensure now is that those children who have been seen by the Tavistock, and possibly given the treatments… that we know what has happened to them, and the consequences of those treatments.

Watch Again: Nick Ferrari is joined by Health & Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins | 11/04/24

"Because what Dr Cass really made clear yesterday was… the shaky foundations, to use her phrase, of the evidence base of prescribing these drugs to children and young people, and we need to understand the longer-term consequences of that, so that we can help and support those people.

"This isn’t just about our reactions to the report, it’s also critically about helping those children and young people as they enter adulthood."

Dr Hilary Cass
Dr Hilary Cass. Picture: Alamy

The NHS has already stopped the prescription of puberty blockers for children.

Ms Atkins said that she was concerned about the role of private clinics could play since the NHS ban.

"What we cannot have is people trying to get around the NHS rule - clinicians or those who are still very much ensconced in this ideology, trying to get round it by using private clinics."

The Tavistock Centre
The Tavistock Centre. Picture: Alamy

She added: "What we know is that prescribing is a highly, highly regulated activity, and that the CQC has not licensed any gender clinic to prescribe hormone blockers or cross sex hormones to people under the age of 16.

"And so any any clinic that does that, in those circumstances for gender dysphoria, will be committing a very serious regulatory offence."

Most NHS gender clinics refused to take part in Dr Cass' report, which she called "hugely disappointing".

Addressing the issue, Ms Atkins said: "I draw myself back to the oath which clinicians take, which is to ‘do no harm’ and it seems to me that this failure, this refusal, by some - not all - but by some, to help the review… I struggle to understand how that is consistent with their professional duties."