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by Kirsteen Paterson
15 August 2022
Joanna Cherry and Robin Harper call to close Sandyford service for trans children

Joanna Cherry MP and Robin Harper have written to Professor Jason Leitch

Joanna Cherry and Robin Harper call to close Sandyford service for trans children

Former Scottish Green Party leader Robin Harper and SNP MP Joanna Cherry have called on Jason Leitch to shut Scotland's only gender identity clinic for children.

The pair say the service at the Sandyford in Glasgow should be replaced with local services that will take a "holistic approach" to young people's needs.

And in a letter published online, they say: "Children expressing distress about their sex must be treated like any other children with psychological problems and offered compassionate and appropriate services which properly address all their needs."

Both the SNP and the Greens are committed to improving services for transgender people in Scotland.

In a recent report, the charity LGBT Youth Scotland said long wait times for gender identity clinic appointments cause "considerable distress" to patients.

In England, the NHS is to close its gender identity clinic for children and replace it with regional centres. The decision follows an independent review critical of the Tavistock and Portman NHS foundation trust which stated that a single service is "not a safe or viable long-term option" and found that the London unit had failed to carry out follow-up checks with patients. NHS England said the new network will "ensure the holistic needs" of young people are met.

In their letter to Leitch, the National Clinical Director of NHS Scotland, Cherry and Harper say that the use of a centralised service puts young people experiencing gender dysphoria "at significant risk".

They go on: "Many children have been put on a medical/surgical pathway with insufficient exploration and often little consideration of consent. There has been a lack of follow-up of those who have undergone what can only be regarded as experimental treatment. The Tavistock clinic is now facing multiple legal claims for medical negligence from children and parents."

The letter continues: "It is well known that children who experience a sense of unease because of a perceived mismatch between their biological sex and what has come to be known as their 'gender identity' often have other problems, including past trauma and sexual abuse, autistic spectrum disorder, and wider mental health difficulties. Many of these children are lesbian, gay or bisexual and simply need help to be comfortable with their sexual identity as they grow up."

Speaking to The Times newspaper, ex-teacher and children's panel member Harper, who entered Holyrood in 1999, said he does not want to "inflame arguments" but is ready for a negative reaction from the Greens. He said: "I feel a bit guilty for not saying anything for so long."

The Scottish Government said the findings from the Cass review into the Tavistock clinic "will be closely considered within the context of NHS Scotland services" as part of a broader commitment to improve gender identity services.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Greens said the party is "committed to reforms that will address the issues those using gender identity services tell us they face", including long waiting times.

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