Health Fitness

Health service in England curtails puberty blockers for minors

Children in England will no longer be prescribed puberty blockers at gender identity clinics, according to the country’s National Health Service (NHS).

In a policy document released Tuesday, the NHS said that following a review of published research, “we have concluded that there is not enough evidence to support the safety or clinical effectiveness of [puberty suppressing hormones] to make the treatment routinely available at this time.”

Under the new policy, puberty blockers for those under 18 will only be available as part of research studies. One such study is slated to begin by the end of 2024.

Puberty blockers are hormone therapy treatments that delay the sexual development changes of puberty.

According to a published report by BBC News, fewer than 100 young people in England are currently prescribed puberty blockers by the NHS. The report said they will all able to continue their treatment.

Contentious issue

The blockers have become a contentious issue in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, as politicians debate the use of these medications in children of various ages. They’ve been banned for minors in several U.S. states.

In Alberta, Premier Danielle Smith recently announced her government plans to introduce similar policies. Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has said he does not support trans kids under 18 taking puberty blockers. 

The Canadian Paediatric Society and Canadian Medical Association have both stated their support of gender-affirming care.

The Canadian Paediatric Society, in a 2023 statement on affirming care for transgender and gender-diverse youth, said hormone blocker prescriptions “provide a young person with time to further explore their gender identity without pressure or distress related to ongoing development of secondary sex characteristics” or gendered experiences such as menstruation or erections.

In response to the new NHS policy, U.K. Health Minister Maria Caulfield said the government welcomed the “landmark decision” by the health service, according to the BBC.

“Ending the routine prescription of puberty blockers will help ensure that care is based on evidence, expert clinical opinion and is in the best interests of the child,” Caulfield said.

In a posting on Facebook, Mermaids — a U.K. charity that supports trans, non-binary and gender diverse young people — called the announcement “deeply disappointing” and a further restriction of support offered to trans children and young people through the NHS.

“There were virtually no first appointments [for gender care] offered in 2023, with ever-growing waiting lists of over five years,” the group said.

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