NAAPP psychiatrists call for review into gender blockers, cross-sex hormones in wake of NHS review

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Federal and state governments are being urged to reassess how trans kids can access interventionist medical treatments, as new research reveals puberty blockers can have lifelong lasting effects.

The National Association of Practising Psychiatrists has called for a national independent investigation into the use of the medical practices, including puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones.

It comes in the wake of a massive review of Great Britain’s NHS gender identity services, which found the options available to children wanting to change gender were “built on shaky foundations”.

Of the 32 recommendations made by chairwoman Hilary Cass, one found the prescription of hormones to under 18s to halt puberty should be done with “extreme caution” after a “a clear clinical rationale” for why the child wanted to transition was done.

Dr Cass said it was important this step was taken before the child turned 18, and recommended “a holistic assessment”, including a mental health assessment and screening for conditions such as autism.

NAAPP president Philip Morris said the Australian medical approach to children wanting to transition also needed to be more cautious and take its cues from the Cass review.

The prescription of puberty blockers allows a child to “pause” gender development, and later access cross-sex hormones to transition to their chosen sex.

These drugs are typically prescribed to girls at the age of 10 or 11 years old, while boys on average will be prescribed the medication around age 13 due to their different biological development.

Dr Morris told NCA Newswire NAAPP had been calling on the government for more than three years to evaluate how children’s accessibility to medicines like puberty blockers was provided.

While he didn’t call for an outright ban on these types of medications, Dr Morris said it was important the government reviewed its processes to ensure the child’s health and wellbeing was priority.

“It’s clear that a number of the groups and major players in Europe — and you can’t call Dr Cass a minor player — have decided this area has to be looked into much more cautiously,” Dr Morris said.

“It’s very political, the government want to be seen as sensitive to the needs of the minority communities, such as the trans community, so they go out of the way to do everything to (cater to them).

“But on the other hand, that if its a medical procedure, because doctors need to prescribe the the drugs, we have to take into account all the aspects of medical procedures.”

Trans Justice Project director Jackie Turner said the Cass review had failed to take into account the wellbeing of trans children and their families.

“The Cass Review can’t be allowed to shape trans healthcare in Australia,” Ms Turner said.

“Trans people, their clinicians and families should always be involved in decisions and research about trans healthcare.

“The Cass review has delivered a set of recommendations that will put the lives and wellbeing of trans youth at risk.”

But Dr Morris said the drugs the children were being given could not be changed or altered later in life.

“We’re seeing much bigger issue which need to be looked at across the whole of the country so the public can be reassured so children won’t be harmed in the long run,” he said.

“We’re not trying to say ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that’ because that’s an individual level.

“But the broad approach to the clinical area needs to be reviewed.”

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Mark Butler told The Australian the Cass review was a “significant report in an area where best practice and research is continuing to emerge”.

“Everyone, including the states and territories who are responsible for these services in Australia, will take the time to consider this review which has just been released,” she said.