A series of attacks on the RSPCA clinic in Rhyl has left staff devastated and…
Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan has become the first senior government politician to publicly express concern over the use of Britain’s Tavistock Clinic for Irish children who require gender identity treatment.
n August, the former Minister for Children and Justice wrote twice to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly raising concerns about the use of the clinic by the HSE and asking for a independent investigation.
It came after this newspaper revealed doctors working at Ireland’s National Gender Service (NGS) for adults have been calling since 2019 for the HSE to end its use of Tavistock – after treating a number of patients who would not have not been properly assessed before being placed. on hormones or puberty blockers.
Speaking over the weekend, Mr Flanagan said he was “very concerned and disturbed” that he had not received a response from Mr Donnelly to correspondence sent two months ago. He believes there has been an attempt to ‘suppress’ discussion of caring for children with gender dysphoria.
“I recognize the serious and sensitive nature of the question and I am concerned about what has been an ideological response or an attempt to suppress debate on a matter of public interest,” Mr. Flanagan said.
In his first email to Mr Donnelly on August 8, which was copied to Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman, Mr Flanagan said he understood more than 200 Irish children had been referred by the HSE for treatment by Tavistock, who ran a satellite clinic at Crumlin Hospital. from 2015 to 2020.
Mr Flanagan said he believed doctors such as Donal O’Shea and Paul Moran of the NGS had raised similar concerns to the issues identified by Professor Hilary Cass in his preliminary report on Tavistock published in the UK in march. “I would appreciate it if you could clarify the response of the authorities, including your department, HSE, Tusla and the medical profession to the comments from the named professionals,” Mr Flanagan said.
“It was said that one of the concerns raised was ‘children being rushed down a path’, leading to regret and even anguish. I think the practice of HSE dismissals at Tavistock should be investigated and reviewed.
“In particular, I would like to verify that the practice of normal medical psychological assessment procedures is in place before the start of any irreversible treatment administered.”
Mr Flanagan asked Mr Donnelly to set out the nature of ‘any reliable and accepted long-term scientific study’ which may have formed the scientific basis for returning pre-pubescent children to Tavistock.
Mr Flanagan wrote a second email on August 11 after Siobhán Ní Bhriain, HSE National Clinical Director and Head of Integrated Care, said in media interviews that the HSE would continue to use Tavistock until it was closed l next year as it was safe. ‘It appears our HSE has no concerns with the Tavistock Clinic,’ Mr Flanagan wrote.
” That worries me. I raise this issue particularly in light of a report by Dr Hilary Cass outlining numerous concerns about practices at the Tavistock clinic and that some aspects of the treatment provided were described as ‘unsafe’. I wonder why the HSE continues to provide guidance to children aware of these concerns and would ask that Irish guidance be discontinued until evidence-based science is recognized and reliable long-term scientific studies are available to strengthen the orientation treatment and practice.
Mr. Flanagan asked for confirmation that the Tavistock clinicians no longer work at Crumlin. He also asked Mr. Donnelly to “confirm the nature of the service agreement between Crumlin and Tavistock and the legal nature of the processing arrangement”.
He reiterated his earlier call for an “independent inquiry” into the “nature, form and practice” of Ireland’s dealings with Tavistock.
This weekend, the department did not respond to questions about why it did not engage with Mr. Flanagan. He said Mr Donnelly ‘believes the development of a service in Ireland for children and young people is essential’. It is understood that Mr. Flanagan will now raise his concerns with the Dáil. The HSE said Colm Henry, its clinical director, has commissioned an internal review of the Cass report and it is nearing completion. The review involved Mr Henry traveling to London to meet Professor Cass.
“He has spoken to Professor Cass on several occasions over recent months, including at a meeting in London, to discuss the challenges of developing a gender service in circumstances where data and evidence on on which to base a clinical approach are limited,” the HSE said. said.
“In line with many other national health services, we are working to provide the best possible service to those who need it now, as well as ensuring that the service we provide evolves with the emerging evidence that is taking place. This will not imply a sudden change in the current reference pathways, which is moreover in line with the approach advocated by Professor Cass.
The HSE said it has regular contact with consultants from NGS and Children’s Health Ireland. “Our aim is to develop the best possible gender service in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders, operating according to best practices and able to cope with significant waiting lists,” he said.
The waiting list to access adult services is now over three years.