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The government’s 11th-hour ban on puberty blockers

The emergency legislation will expire in September.

By Hannah Barnes

The final act of this government was the passing of emergency legislation to ban private prescriptions for puberty blockers to treat gender-distressed under-18s. In the dying minutes of the last parliament, the Health Secretary Victoria Atkins introduced new rules that will be effective for three months, between 3 June to 3 September.

The government argued the laws were necessary to “address risks to patient safety”. Before this intervention, private clinics could prescribe puberty blockers even though they are no longer available on the NHS in England (unless children are participating in a research trial). These emergency measures close that loophole. New prescriptions have been paused in Scotland, too.

These decisions were taken on the basis of the independent Cass Review into gender identity services for children and young people. The report concluded that there is “no good evidence on the long-term outcomes of interventions to manage gender-related distress”. Which is to say that the evidence for puberty blockers to aid gender-related distress is flimsy.

Children who have already been prescribed puberty blockers by private providers in the UK will be able to continue receiving them. But those who receive prescriptions from doctors registered in the European Economic Area – a model used by the private company GenderGP, for example (whose founder Helen Webberley responded by writing on X/Twitter “I am totally shocked at this ban”, and that she “will be working to provide solutions, knowledge and information to parents, families and children”) – will not.

In a separate piece of legislation, which applies to England, Wales and Scotland, “indefinite restrictions” are placed on GPs prescribing these medications. Children receiving puberty blockers for other medical reasons – not related to gender dysphoria or gender incongruence – are unaffected. These drugs are only licensed for use in children who begin puberty very early – precocious puberty – for which there is a strong evidence base and the drugs are considered safe.

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It will be up to the next government to decide whether to extend the legislation beyond September. But Labour’s Wes Streeting said in April that his party would fully implement the Cass review’s recommendations and indicated a commitment to cracking down on private clinics.

[See also: The Cass Review into children’s gender care should shame us all]

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