Governor quits ‘blinkered’ Tavistock clinic The Times 23.02.19

The original article is here.

A governor of the NHS trust that runs England’s only gender clinic for children has resigned in protest at its “blinkered” and “one-sided” response to doctors who had raised the alarm about “woefully inadequate” care.

Marcus Evans, a consultant psychotherapist at the Tavistock and Portman trust with three decades’ experience, told The Sunday Times that the trust had said things that were “not true”, had created a “climate of fear” and was trying to “dismiss or undermine” concerns raised by its own clinicians.

“I am sad to be ending my proud 34-year association with the trust,” Evans wrote in his resignation letter. “However, I do not have confidence that these serious issues . . . are going to be sufficiently addressed and dealt with in a thorough, thoughtful and balanced way.”

Twenty-five other clinicians at the trust have signed a letter protesting against how it had handled the concerns of medical staff. The 25 said the attitude of managers was “not acceptable”.

In a report leaked to this newspaper last week, some staff at the Tavistock’s gender identity development service (Gids) said it was exposing young patients to “long-term damage” because of its “inability to stand up to the pressure” from “highly politicised” campaigners and families demanding fast-track gender transition.

The report, compiled by David Bell, a clinician and former governor at the trust, said the staff had “very serious ethical concerns” that children were making life-changing decisions with “inadequate” examination and consent.

Some openly homophobic parents pushed their children to transition because they were gay, the report said. In other cases, youngsters seized on transition as a “solution” after abuse or bereavement. Their histories were not properly explored by clinicians struggling with “huge and unmanageable caseloads” and afraid of being accused of transphobia if they questioned the “rehearsed” surface presentation.

The report said Gids had tried to “placate” lobby groups such as the Mermaids charity, which campaigns for children to be given sex-change treatment.

After the leak, the trust published a statement on its website claiming Bell’s report was “unsubstantiated”, the case studies were “hypothetical” and he had “no expertise in this field”.

It did so even though a review it had commissioned in response to Bell’s report, by the trust’s medical director, Dinesh Sinha, had found that some of the concerns were valid.

Sinha said individuals’ caseloads were “excessive”, that they worked in “an atmosphere of significant persecution” created by lobbyists and that staff were not sure whether children understood the effect on their fertility of starting sex-change treatment. He made 26 recommendations but said the clinic was safe.

A Gids clinician who contributed to Bell’s report but asked to remain anonymous said last week that the case studies were real and they had personally treated some of the children described.

Evans said: “Things in that statement simply were not true.” He added that Bell, a former president of the British Psychoanalytic Society, had “one of the biggest reputations in the Tavistock yet he’s treated like he’s some sort of charlatan in order to defend their position”. The statement has now been removed from the trust’s website.

Separately, a group of academics in the field of gender has written to The Sunday Times attacking the trust’s attempt to “discredit” Bell and saying that for the sake of “the health of thousands of children” it should “encourage scientific investigation and ethical debate”.

Ministers are concerned that the number of children referred to Gids had multiplied eight-fold in five years, almost three times the rise for adult gender transition. It is understood that Gids is to be given a grant for research into the situation.

The Tavistock said: “The trust is confident that Dr Sinha, with oversight from a non-executive board member and a governor, has conducted a thorough and fair review of the issues raised. It has been very disappointed at the unauthorised disclosure of Dr Bell’s confidential report to the media.”