Humza Yousaf doesn't rule out puberty blocker restrictions as Sandyford pressure could be eased

Humza Yousaf has not ruled out restricting puberty blockers for young trans people.

First Minister Humza Yousaf has not ruled out banning puberty blockers for young trans people, but has insisted his Government is considering more regional health centres to take pressure away from Scotland’s only dedicated facility for teenagers.

Mr Yousaf’s Government and NHS Scotland have been criticised by opponents for failing to announce an immediate halt to the use of hormone therapy for those aged under 18 after NHS England confirmed a similar move last month – with the First Minister accused of "an abdication of leadership”.

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The pressure comes after Dr Hilary Cass published her report into gender services for young people in England and Wales, which warned the use of puberty blockers from the age of 16 should be done with “extreme caution”, adding “we have no good evidence on the long-term outcomes of interventions to manage gender-related distress".

The Sandyford clinic in Glasgow. (Photo by Clare Grant)The Sandyford clinic in Glasgow. (Photo by Clare Grant)
The Sandyford clinic in Glasgow. (Photo by Clare Grant)

The document said: “There should be a clear clinical rationale for providing hormones at this stage rather than waiting until an individual reaches 18.”

Reports suggest there are fewer than 20 young people in Scotland being prescribed puberty blockers by NHS Scotland for gender dysphoria. As of the end of last year, Scotland's only specialist gender clinic for under-18s, the Sandyford in Glasgow, had more than 1,100 patients on its waiting list.

Mr Yousaf has rejected calls from opponents for the Sandyford to close, but has not ruled out tighter restrictions being placed on puberty blockers.

The First Minister said “the Scottish Government and health boards will be taking the time to look through the report and examine it in detail”.

First Minister Humza Yousaf (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)First Minister Humza Yousaf (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)
First Minister Humza Yousaf (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

“I am not going to be making decisions on what clinicians should or shouldn’t prescribe, but this is a very lengthy report and something that is getting the utmost consideration,” he told the BBC.

“I promise it is not going to take an inordinate amount of time to consider, but it is a 400-page report and we should take time over it when it comes to deciding the way forward for some of our most marginalised children.”

Mr Yousaf added: “In terms of Sandyford, I don’t believe there is a case to close Sandyford. It provides sexual healthcare to the most marginalised and vulnerable across the spectrum. One of the key recommendations is around more regional health centres and that’s worth consideration and worth exploring.

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“In relation to Dr Cass’s review on puberty blockers, I would simply point out that it’s better for clinicians with expertise to make decisions on puberty blockers, not politicians. Every recommendation Dr Cass makes will be considered as part of considerations of the entire report, including the recommendations on puberty blockers.”

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said: “This interview again exposed Humza Yousaf’s painfully weak leadership. On the Cass Review, he failed vulnerable young people and their parents by stalling for time and passing the buck to clinicians.

“It’s an abdication of leadership not to pause the prescribing of puberty blockers in the interim.

“The First Minister says a variety of options are being considered, yet guaranteeing Scottish youngsters evidence-based treatment or closing the Sandyford do not appear to be among them.”



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