Gender reassignment

Keira Bell (left) has taken over from Susan Evans in fronting the case at the High Court (Picture: PA)

A landmark case to stop the NHS prescribing ‘experimental’ puberty blockers to children who want to change genders reached the High Court today.

The NHS Trust behind the UK’s only gender identity development service (GIDS) for children is being sued over concerns that youngsters are being given treatment including cross-sex hormones without adequate assessments.

Those behind the action say the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust should not be providing ‘life-changing’ treatment to children, some younger than 12, based solely on the youngster’s consent.

The Trust is being sued by a woman known only as ‘Mrs A’ – the mother of a 15-year-old autistic girl who is currently on the waiting list for treatment.

Her barrister, Jeremy Hyam QC, said: ‘What is challenged is the current and continuing practice of the defendant… to prescribe puberty-suppressing hormone blockers and then subsequently cross-sex hormones to children.’

Susan Evans outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, where a landmark case to stop the NHS prescribing

Susan Evans was previously employed as a psychiatric nurse by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust (Picture: PA)

Keira Bell outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, where a landmark case to stop the NHS prescribing

Keira Bell does says young people like her are unable to consent to ‘life-changing treatment (Picture: PA)

He continued: ‘The nature of the treatment which is being given is a serious intervention described by the defendant itself as having consequences that may be significant and life-changing.

‘That treatment is given to children – not just under the age of 16, but under the age of 12 – on the basis that those children gave fully-informed consent to that treatment, even though the nature of the treatment has side-effects which… they cannot properly take into account.’

Writing on a crowdfunding page, which has so far raised more than £35,000 to cover legal costs, Mrs A added: ‘I have deep concerns that the current clinical approach at GIDS means that my daughter will be subjected to an experimental treatment path that is not adequately regulated, where there are insufficient safeguards, where her autism will not be properly accounted for and where no-one (let alone my daughter) understands the risks and therefore cannot ensure informed consent is obtained.’

The case was also originally brought on behalf of Susan Evans, 62, a former psychiatric nurse at the trust,

But Mr Hyam convinced Mr Justice Supperstone that Ms Evans’ place should to be taken by Keira Bell, 23, who previously underwent treatment.

Suggesting this should not happen to ‘anyone else’, Mr Hyam said: ‘She now very seriously regrets the process and feels that the way it was handled and her involvement in it was not appropriate.’

In a statement after the hearing, Ms Bell explained: ‘I do not believe that children and young people can consent to the use of powerful and experimental hormone drugs like I did.’

Labelling the current system ‘inadequate’, she continued: ‘Hormone-changing drugs and surgery does not work for everyone and it certainly should not be offered to someone under 18 when they are emotionally and mentally vulnerable.

‘The treatment urgently needs to change so that it does not put young people, like me, on a torturous and unnecessary path that is permanent and life-changing.’

Keira Bell outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, where a landmark case to stop the NHS prescribing

Ms Bell does not want the drugs offered to people under 18 (Picture: PA)

In a statement after the claim was filed earlier this month, a spokesman for the trust said: ‘It is not appropriate for us to comment in detail in advance of any proposed legal proceedings.

‘The GIDS is one of the longest-established services of its type in the world, with an international reputation for being cautious and considered.

‘Our clinical interventions are laid out in nationally-set service specifications.

‘NHS England monitor our service very closely. The service has a high level of reported satisfaction and was rated good by the Care Quality Commission.’

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