Puberty-suppressing Hormones

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 21 March 2024.

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Photo of Meghan Gallacher Meghan Gallacher Conservative

5. To ask the First Minister whether the Scottish Government will engage with NHS Scotland on ending the prescription of puberty-suppressing hormones to children, following the recent announcement by NHS England. (S6F-02948)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

We are aware of the new clinical policy that was issued by NHS England last week on the routine prescription of puberty-suppressing hormones for children and young people as a treatment option for gender dysphoria. The details of that are being closely considered by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and its relevant clinical team as the provider of young people’s gender services at Sandyford. Any decision on how such healthcare is delivered in Scotland will, rightly, be made by health boards and, most important, by the clinicians involved.

It should be noted that NHS England’s announcement follows its interim policy position last year, recommending that puberty blockers are accessed only via a research programme that it is establishing. The Scottish Government and NHS Scotland remain observers to that particular study, and we are considering what further engagement might be appropriate.

Photo of Meghan Gallacher Meghan Gallacher Conservative

In May last year, I asked the First Minister about the prescription of puberty blockers to children. He said:

“I support such decisions being made by clinicians—by the people who have clinical knowledge ... We should trust those who have clinical expertise, as opposed to standing here in the chamber ... making judgments about what is best for young people who need gender identity services.”—[

Official Report

, 18 May 2023; c 25.]

The truth of the matter is that we do not know whether puberty blockers have long-term life-changing consequences for young people who take them. That is why NHS England is conducting a review.

Will the First Minister publish all the evidence that his Government has that puberty blockers are safe for children? If his Government does not have any evidence, why is he allowing national health service boards to prescribe them?

The First Minister:

Meghan Gallacher read out my response to her the last time round. My position has not changed one iota. I still believe that clinical experts in Scotland should be the ones who determine whether puberty blockers are prescribed. That is the sensible position, as opposed to politicians demanding what clinical treatment should be. It should be for the clinical experts.

On the study that is taking place, I referenced in my response to Meghan Gallacher’s first question that we are engaging with the study that is taking place. The Scottish Government and NHS Scotland are well engaged with NHS England on its planned study into the use of puberty blockers in young people’s gender identity healthcare. We are observers to that study, and that remains a work in progress. We are considering what future engagement in that research might be possible.

I go back to the point that I have already made to Meghan Gallacher that it is for clinicians to make those judgments. It is right that we trust our clinicians in their expert decision making. Regarding the studies that are taking place in England, I am more than happy to confirm that we are observers. We are keeping close to NHS England, and we will continue to do so as the study develops.