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Latest 21 June 2024

The shocking rise of deaths among young trans people

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Since the NHS imposed restrictions on treatment for young trans people, deaths have surged. Whistleblowers and Tavistock clinic papers show this was not only predictable, but predicted at the time.

Content warning: suicide

In 2020, the High Court ruled in the Bell case that it was “unlikely” young people could give informed consent to puberty blockers and the NHS immediately pulled down the shutters on healthcare for young trans people. But when the Court of Appeal overturned that decision a year later – on multiple grounds – the NHS left those shutters in place.

The outcome was both predictable and predicted: a huge increase in deaths of young trans people.

Two whistleblowers have told Good Law Project that in the seven years before the High Court decision there was one death of a young person on the waiting list for Gender Identity Development Services (GIDS). In the three years afterwards, there were 16.

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They’ve explained how staff at the Tavistock clinic raised concerns about this increase and planned an open letter, but were threatened with disciplinary action. And they’ve talked to us about deliberate attempts to suppress these figures.

The minutes of the Tavistock board tell the same story. In the three years before December 2020 the minutes record one “apparent suicide” in GIDS. The board notes in January 2021 the “profound” effect the High Court decision will have on patients, and then the number of deaths starts to climb.

There’s one in the quarter that covers December 2020, another in the first quarter of 2021/2022 and two more in the second quarter. In January 2022, the minutes refer to seven deaths “in gender”, of which three are “probably suicide” – though there’s no breakdown of whether these deaths concerned young trans people or older trans people. In the last quarter of that year – the period up to 31 March 2022 – a “data sweep” discovers 22 additional deaths, with the minutes from April 2023 revealing there were five deaths in GIDS between 1 April 2022 and the “present”. The Tavistock stops saying whether these were likely suicides.

These figures don’t capture all these deaths. The Tavistock has not published minutes from all the meetings of its board and they do not take account of any deaths at NHS Arden after care for trans young people passed to it in March 2023. NHS Arden does not seem to publish minutes at all. They make no mention of attempted suicides. And they ignore that a well known trigger for suicide is when young trans people are moved across into adult care. Deaths in adult care are not captured in these figures. And all of this is happening over a period where the number of patients in Gender Identity Development Service is dropping by hundreds.

Just before parliament was dissolved on 30 May, the health secretary Victoria Atkins introduced an immediate ban on trans young people obtaining in the UK puberty blockers from regulated prescribers in France, Germany, Switzerland and throughout Europe.

These regulations make the situation even worse. And Good Law Project is aware of a number of young people who – entirely predictably – tried to take their own lives in the wake of these new regulations.

We’re challenging Atkins’s shocking decision. Any support you can give will help us challenge this callous ban.

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