HSE to continue referring Irish children to UK gender clinic despite its impending closure

“We will continue to refer while Tavistock is still open, we will monitor it extremely closely and we have for quite a number of years been exploring other options,” said the HSE's Dr Ní Bhriain.

A clinician such as in the UK clinic in question.
Image: Pexels

The HSE has confirmed that Irish children with gender dysphoria will continue to be referred to the Tavistock and Portman clinic in the UK, despite its forthcoming closure.

The NHS’ decision to close the facility came after an independent review of the centre was published by Dr Hilary Cass, finding that the current model of a sole provider of Gender Identity Development Services, delivered at the Tavistock and Portman Centre, was inadequate. The clinic will be closed in favour of establishing two new regional centres expected to be in development from Spring 2023.

Despite that, Dr Siobhán Ní Bhriain, the National Clinical Director for Integrated Care in the HSE, said that they have seen no evidence that the current UK clinic is unsafe.

“We had no complaint from any patient or service user,” Dr Ní Bhriain told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland. “The service has not been deemed not safe, because if it was deemed completely unsafe it would have closed immediately, that’s the first thing.

“The second thing is the Tavistock will keep open for another year or so until there are regional units developed in the UK and increased numbers of people with the skill to deliver care to these children who so badly need it.”

She confirmed: “We will continue to refer while Tavistock is still open, we will monitor it extremely closely and we have for quite a number of years been exploring other options.”

Explaining the process of referrals in Ireland, Dr Ní Bhriain said: “We don’t have a specialist psychiatric service for children with gender dysphoria, what we do have is community consultant adolescent mental health service teams who are able to do an initial assessment and who would be able to assess many of the problems that these children will have so that service is there.

“If children present to their general practitioner with gender dysphoria they can be referred to their local Camhs service or they can be referred to primary care psychology and if the Camhs service is concerned they will refer on to Tavistock.”

The restructuring of the UK’s Gender Identity Development Services has ignited hope among Trans healthcare advocates in Ireland, with Trans Equality Network Ireland (TENI) issuing a statement to GCN saying: “We are cautiously optimistic that expanding the service and creating regional hubs will shorten waiting lists and create community care which will enhance holistic wrap around local services around the UK.”

Even so, it remains clear that Ireland’s services are also in need of major improvements, and the organisation added: “TENI would be delighted to see something similar happen in Ireland. Young people and their families have been waiting a long time for an Irish child and adolescent service to be created.”

Dr Ní Bhriain stated that developing such a service is a primary interest of the HSE.

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