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by Staff Reporter
10 April 2024
SNP MP Joanna Cherry calls for gender services re-design and end to puberty blockers following Cass review

Joanna Cherry and Robin Harper have written to chief medical officer Gregor Smith | Alamy

SNP MP Joanna Cherry calls for gender services re-design and end to puberty blockers following Cass review

SNP MP Joanna Cherry has written to Scotland’s chief medical officer calling for the recommendations from the Cass review to be implemented in Scotland.

In a letter co-signed by former Scottish Green leader and MSP Robin Harper, the pair call for “immediate and long-term changes” to the delivery of healthcare to gender-questioning children.

They also call for an end to puberty blockers being prescribed to children and young people in Scotland.

The Cass review – named after its chair Dr Hilary Cass – concluded children accessing gender identity services in England needed to be provided with “holistic” care, including screening for neurodevelopmental conditions and a mental health assessment.

It also found a lack of reliable evidence on which to base clinical decisions and warned the rationale for using puberty blockers “remains unclear”.

While the review did not cover services in Scotland, it has led to a number of politicians questioning the practices in place for gender questioning young people north of the border.

Writing to Professor Gregor Smith, who has responsibility for providing clinical advice on professional standards and policy advice to Scottish ministers, Cherry and Harper say the guidelines being following in Scotland are “clearly no longer acceptable and must be urgently reviewed”.

They add: “The NHS in Scotland has been slow to react to emerging evidence of the harm of these practices and all too often relies on international best practice as a catch all to avoid difficult conversations.

“The practice may have become internationalised, but it is clearly far from best. Many other European countries are currently reviewing or have reviewed their practices in this area.

“The publication of the Cass Review today should be an urgent wakeup call that services for children and young people must be urgently re-designed and puberty blockers removed from use in Scotland.”

The Scottish Conservatives have also called for a pause in the use of puberty blockers, following an announcement last month that they would no longer be prescribed to children in England except as part of clinical trials.

Deputy leader Meghan Gallacher added: “If the SNP won’t heed the recommendations made by the Cass review then they must urgently undertake their own evaluation so that we can protect the wellbeing of young people, especially children, accessing these services, starting with pausing the use of puberty blockers.”

The Scottish Government said it had been “closely monitoring” findings and it would now “take the time to consider” the final report, but it did not commit to implementing any of its recommendations.

A spokesperson said: “We agree with Dr Hilary Cass when she highlights that ‘increasingly toxic, ideological and polarised public debate’ does nothing to serve the young people accessing this care, their families and the NHS staff working hard to care for them.

“Since the Cass Review was commissioned, we’ve closely monitored ongoing findings with Scottish Government officials and NHS Scotland clinicians meeting Dr Cass on a number of occasions to share information about improvement work in Scotland.

“While the Cass Review extends only to services provided by NHS England, we will now take the time to consider the findings of the final report in the context of how such healthcare can be best delivered here in Scotland.”

The Scottish Greens have said they will oppose any move to increase the age of accessing gender affirming care to 25.

Maggie Chapman MSP said: “It is clear that gender affirming care plays a vital role in supporting and protecting trans people, and we would oppose any moves to increase the minimum age to 25 to receive such care.

“With waiting times still up to five and a half years, it’s clear a lot of work remains. I’m glad the Cass Report acknowledges that this situation is completely unacceptable, and we’ll continue to work with the Scottish Government and gender identity services to bring those times down to acceptable levels.”

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