Puberty-suppressing Hormones (Under-16s)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 28 March 2024.

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Photo of Ash Denham Ash Denham Scottish National Party

3. To ask the Scottish Government how many children aged 16 and under have been prescribed puberty suppressing hormones through NHS Scotland since 2014. (S6O-03286)

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

The Sandyford young people’s gender service, which is based in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, offers a range of support to young people and their families. Referral to paediatric endocrinology for consideration for endocrine intervention is only one potential option in the overall clinical pathway that is offered.

According to figures provided by NHS Scotland, from 2016 to December 2023, the Sandyford clinic referred just under 100 young people aged 16 or under to paediatric endocrinology in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lothian for further assessment for puberty blockers. Not all of the young people who were referred would have been assessed as being suitable to progress on to that medication.

I understand that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is currently reviewing its data systems, and I shall write to Ash Regan with the relevant information for the 2014 to 2016 period when it is available.

Ash Regan:

Following medical evidence reviews, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, France and England now sharply restrict or prohibit the use of puberty blockers for gender dysphoria. There is weak to no proof that they help, but there is much evidence of serious side effects. Puberty blockers prevent bone density development, they render children infertile and they can cause damage to the heart and severe depression. Class action lawsuits involving thousands of patients who have been damaged by puberty blockers are now under way in the US courts. What will it take for this Government to step in and protect Scotland’s children from this unethical experiment?

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

We are aware of the new clinical policy that NHS England has recently issued 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, as the provider of the young people’s gender service at Sandyford, and its relevant clinical team. Any decision on how such healthcare is delivered in Scotland will rightly be made by health boards and their clinicians.

It should be noted that NHS England’s announcements follow its interim policy position last year and its recommendation that puberty blockers be accessed only via a research programme that it is establishing. The Scottish Government and NHS Scotland remain observers of that study development, and we are considering what further engagement may be appropriate.

Photo of Carol Mochan Carol Mochan Labour

The Cass review was clear in its recommendations. Given that the action that was taken in England was taken on the basis of a lack of evidence that puberty-suppressing hormones were safe or effective, many people in Scotland will be expecting action from the Government. What discussion has the cabinet secretary had with NHS Scotland in the light of the decision that has been taken in England? If action is to be taken here, will he set out to Parliament what the timescales are for such action?

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

We have been consistently clear that the on-going findings of the Cass review, and that review’s final report, once published, will be closely considered by both the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland, in the context of how such healthcare can be best delivered here in Scotland.

Although the Cass review extends only to services provided by NHS England, Scottish Government officials and NHS Scotland clinicians have met Dr Cass on many occasions to share information about improvement work in Scotland. We look forward to the outcome of that review.

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

We have much to get through, so concise questions and responses would be appreciated.