SCOTLAND’S NHS will decide what is “appropriate” after the health service in England announced that children will no longer be prescribed puberty blockers at gender identity clinics.

In England, puberty blockers, which pause the physical changes of puberty such as breast development or facial hair, will now only be available to children as part of clinical research trials.

The UK Government said it welcomed the “landmark decision”, arguing it would help ensure care is based on evidence and is in the “best interests of the child”.

However, LGBT rights charity Stonewall said it was “concerned” at the move, saying puberty blockers could be “an important part” of care for young trans people.

The Scottish Government, which is responsible for the devolved health service north of the Border, said it was engaging with NHS England on the issue and would decide “what future engagement is appropriate”.

The NHS England policy document, published on Tuesday, said: “We have concluded that there is not enough evidence to support the safety or clinical effectiveness of [puberty blockers] to make the treatment routinely available at this time.”

Fewer than 100 young people are currently on puberty blockers via the NHS in England, according to the PA News Agency.

They will be able to continue their treatment and are being seen by specialist endocrine services at Leeds and University College London Hospital.

Puberty blockers are also available through some private gender identity clinics.

It follows a public consultation on the issue and an interim policy, and comes after NHS England commissioned an independent review in 2020 of gender identity services for children under 18.

That review, led by Dr Hilary Cass, followed a sharp rise in referrals to the Gender Identity Development Service (Gids) run by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which is closing at the end of March.

In 2021/22, there were over 5000 referrals to Gids, compared to just under 250 a decade earlier.

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In February 2022, Dr Cass published an interim report saying there was a need to move away from one unit and recommended the creation of regional services to better support youngsters.

She also pointed to a lack of long-term evidence and data collection on what happens to children and young people who are prescribed medication.

She added that Gids had not collected routine and consistent data “which means it is not possible to accurately track the outcomes and pathways that children and young people take through the service.”

Following the Tavistock’s closure, two new NHS services will now open in early April, situated in London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.

The NHS has said children attending these clinics will be supported by clinical experts in neurodiversity, paediatrics and mental health, “resulting in a holistic approach to care”.

The National: Minister for Health Maria Caulfield MP

Tory health minister Maria Caulfield (above) said: “We have always been clear that children’s safety and wellbeing is paramount, so we welcome this landmark decision by the NHS.

“Ending the routine prescription of puberty blockers will help ensure that care is based on evidence, expert clinical opinion and is in the best interests of the child.”

The consultation on the future of services received more than 4000 responses, including around a quarter from members of the public, 22% from patients, 21% from parents, 10% from trans adults and 5% from clinicians.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government and NHS Scotland are engaged with NHS England on its planned study into the use of puberty blockers in young people’s gender identity healthcare, and discussions are ongoing to determine what future engagement is appropriate.”

A Stonewall spokesperson said: “All trans young people deserve access to high quality, timely healthcare.

“For some, an important part of this care comes in the form of puberty blockers, a reversible treatment that delays the onset of puberty, prescribed by expert endocrinologists, giving the young person extra time to evaluate their next steps.

“We are concerned that NHS England will be putting new prescriptions on hold until a research protocol is up and running at the end of 2024.”