THE decision to stop prescribing puberty blockers to under-18s in Scotland has been labelled the “wrong decision” by campaigners, while others celebrated it as “excellent news”.

The Scottish Government has also welcomed the decision, saying it had been “made carefully and based on the best evidence available”.

It comes after the Sandyford Sexual Health Clinic in Glasgow, the only place in Scotland where under-18s are provided with trans healthcare, said it would “pause” new prescriptions of endocrine treatments – which suppress pubertal changes.

Scottish Trans, an affiliated group within the Equality Network, questioned the motivation behind the decision, saying that it was “incredibly rare” for any people under 18 being prescribed puberty blockers.

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The group said in a statement: “This decision has been taken within the context where the reality of trans people’s experiences and lives is questioned almost daily in some of the media and some political circles.

“This makes us worry that the decision has been influenced by that context rather than solely through consideration of the best interests of trans children and young people.”

“Scottish Trans and the Equality Network think this is the wrong decision,” they added.

“The exceptionally rare and cautious choice of puberty blocker prescription, made for a small number after huge waits, is being wrongly painted by some as though it was commonplace and rushed. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Figures from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, released through Freedom of Information, showed five people under 18 were prescribed puberty blockers in Scotland in 2023. In 2022, none had been, while in 2021 it was fewer than five.

The same figures showed that hundreds of young people are referred to Sandyford’s trans healthcare services each year.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) and NHS Lothian said the decision to pause the prescriptions of puberty blockers came with the support of Scotland’s chief medical officer, Professor Sir Gregor Smith, following a review by Dr Hilary Cass in England and the same decision being taken south of the Border.

NHSGGC covers Sandyford, Scotland’s only gender clinic for under-18s, while NHS Lothian provides care to those aged 17 and over at its Chalmers gender identity clinic.

The health boards' decision was welcomed by SNP MP Joanna Cherry (below), who said on social media: “Excellent news and a vindication for all who called for this.

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“The systemic review in the #CassReport is an international piece of work and there is no justification for not transferring the consequent recommendations across into clinical practice in Scotland.”

The Scottish Conservatives also welcomed the decision, but claimed the Scottish Government should have acted sooner rather than letting medical professionals make the decision.

Scottish Tory deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said: “This long overdue decision should have been taken weeks ago when NHS England put a pause on the prescribing of puberty blockers.

“Humza Yousaf repeatedly passed the buck – insisting it was up to clinicians to decide on the efficacy of puberty blockers and saying he wouldn’t be rushed in to responding to Cass – when it was clear decisive action was required.”

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Tory MSP Roz McCall said on social media that the Scottish Parliament should have been the first to be told of the decision – which was announced publicly by the Sandyford Clinic on Thursday, after patients had been informed.

Scottish Health Secretary Neil Gray (below) welcomed the decision from the health boards.

He said: "The Scottish Government welcomes the joint statement from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lothian confirming their change in clinical policy on prescribing puberty hormone suppressants and cross sex hormone medication to young people.

“We have been clear it is for clinicians and health boards to make decisions about clinical pathways, and that these decisions should be made carefully and based on the best evidence available. This is what both health boards have done, and their position is supported by the Chief Medical Officer.

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"More broadly, the Cass review's final report and findings are being closely considered by both the Scottish Government and health boards, in the context of how such healthcare can be best delivered in Scotland.

“We agree with Dr Hilary Cass when she highlights that ‘increasingly toxic, ideological and polarised public debate’ does nothing to serve the young people accessing this care, their families and the NHS staff working hard to care for them.

“I remain clear that it is right that those most impacted by this change were the first to hear about these changes, sensitively and from the services caring for them. They are who should be at the centre of our thoughts when we discuss this issue."

Dr Emilia Crighton, director of public health at NHSGGC, said: “The findings informing the Cass Review are important and we have reviewed the impact on our clinical pathways.

“The next step from here is to work with the Scottish Government and academic partners to generate evidence that enables us to deliver safe care for our patients.

“We echo the views of Dr Hilary Cass that toxicity around public debate is impacting the lives of young people seeking the care of our service and does not serve the teams working hard to care and support them.”