TWO Scottish health boards – one of which covers the only gender clinic in the country for young people – have paused the prescription of puberty blockers to new patients.

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

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

READ MORE: Government responds as Scottish NHS 'pauses' puberty blockers for under-18s

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request submitted to NHSGGC has revealed how many young people were referred to services at the Sandyford Clinic, and how many were prescribed puberty blockers.

The health board issued a response on January 12, 2024, according to the website

The FoI request asked:

How many patients, under 18, have been referred to the gender dysphoria service at Sandyford?

NHSGGC confirmed the following number of referrals, by year:

  • 2018-2019: 363
  • 2019-2020: 390
  • 2020-2021: 351
  • 2021-2022: 616
  • 2022-2023: 490
  • 2023-2024: 216

The FoI request then asked:

How many patients have received prescriptions for GnRH [gonadotropin-releasing hormone] (puberty blockers)?

NHSGGC confirmed the following number of prescriptions, by year:

  • 2016: 7
  • 2017: 20 
  • 2018: 19
  • 2019: 7
  • 2020: 9
  • 2021: fewer than 5 (exact number redacted due to privacy concerns)
  • 2022: 0
  • 2023: 5

The figures which are available suggest that, since 2018, around 1.77% of young people who are referred to the gender care services at Sandyford have gone on to be prescribed puberty blockers. 

Announcing the decision to pause puberty blocker prescriptions, 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.

“We understand the distress that gender incongruence can cause and while all referrals to endocrinology are paused, we will continue to give anyone who is referred into the young people gender service the psychological support that they require while we review the pathways in line with the findings.”