Irish children with gender dysphoria will continue to be referred to the Tavistock Clinic in London despite concerns over the safety of care, the HSE has confirmed.
Dr Siobhán Ní Bhriain, the HSE’s national lead for integrated care, said the Tavistock Clinic was safe, and if it had been deemed unsafe it would have been closed immediately.
“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 told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.
“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.”
Under the HSE treatment abroad scheme, the Tavistock Clinic was used to treat Irish children and young people suffering from gender dysphoria, defined by the NHS as a “sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity”.
Data provided under the Freedom of Information Act shows that between 2011 and 2021, there were 234 referrals of Irish children and young people to its clinic, an average of 21 a year.
However, Tavistock has now been ordered to close by next spring following recommendations from an ongoing review of its operations.
Dr Ní Bhriain said the HSE had taken concerns onboard and its primary interest was in trying to provide such a service in Ireland. The HSE was satisfied there was no evidence to support the concerns raised about the Tavistock Clinic.
“We had no complaint from any patient or service user. 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.”
Sam Blanckensee, chair of the Transgender Equality Network, called for regionally based care in Ireland. “Trans people in Ireland already experience really long waiting lists so there is a strong need for additional resources rather than creating a bottleneck within an already over subscribed system.
"What we would really love to see is regionally based care, but there needs to be some service provided for those young people at the time that they need it.”