Flickr: Ted Eytan
Flickr: Ted Eytan

The NHS England has revealed new restrictions for the prescription of puberty blockers. 

On 9 June, the publically-funded health service announced that it will no longer give the hormone-blocking medicine to trans youth attending gender clinics. 

“Outside of a research setting, puberty–suppressing hormones should not be routinely commissioned for children and adolescents who have gender incongruence/dysphoria,” the NHS said regarding its new “interim policy.” 

Instead, puberty blockers will only be made available to children who take part in clinical trials or under specific circumstances – including those who had a history of treatment “outside NHS protocols.” 

“If a child or young person has already been started on puberty suppressing hormones outside of NHS protocols by the time that they are seen by the NHS, The Service may consider assuming clinical responsibility for prescribing through NHS protocols if The Service’s MDT jointly concludes with the related endocrine clinic that this is an appropriate harm reduction measure,” they said. 

“In such cases administration of puberty suppressing hormones would need to be stopped for a brief period of time to allow baseline investigations to be undertaken by The Service.”

The NHS also announced that the new Children and Young People’s Gender Dysphoria Research Oversight Board will be conducting research into the effects of puberty blockers. 

“We will develop a study into the impact of puberty blockers on gender dysphoria in children and young people with early-onset gender dysphoria, which aims to be up and running in 2024,” an NHS spokesperson told the BBC. 

The new restrictions were created after Dr Hilary Cass published an independent review regarding gender-affirming care services for trans youth in England. 

In the interim report, which was published in February 2022 and commissioned in September 2020, the paediatrician expressed her “uncertainties surrounding the use of hormone treatments” for trans youth. 

The review also described the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) – which is run by Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust – as “unsustainable” due to its lack of resources for the increased amount of children looking for support.

“In recent years GIDS has experienced a significant increase in referrals which has contributed to long waiting lists and growing concern about how the NHS should most appropriately assess, diagnose and care for this population of children and young people,” the report said.

Following the release of the interim report, NHS announced the closure of GIDS in favour of four regional centers. According to their release programme, the Southern Hub of services will open in Autumn 2023, with the Northern Hub opening in April 2024. 

The NHS England’s recently announced puberty blocker restrictions will be implemented in the new gender clinics.