Health & Lifestyle

Now health watchdog probes private gender clinic set up by staff from scandal-hit Tavistock unit

A private gender clinic run by former staff from the scandal-hit NHS Tavistock Centre is being investigated by the Government’s health watchdog just one month after opening. 

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the controversial new Gender Plus clinic, which may refer children and teenagers for gender reassignment surgery and hormone treatment, is being probed for failing to register with health regulator, the Care Quality Commission, which said it was not currently looking at a criminal investigation.

Last night, critics voiced fears that Gender Plus poses a serious risk to young people.

Around half of the clinic’s staff previously worked at the Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Service, the NHS’s only clinic treating children for gender dysphoria, which was ordered to close last year after a damning NHS review. Dr Hilary Cass ruled the service was ‘not safe’ for children.

The clinic, which opened in the 1980s, was strongly criticised for allegedly rushing thousands of teenagers on to life-altering puberty blocking drugs. Since then, former patients have come forward saying they regret transitioning.

Former Tavistock staff opened Gender Plus, which has offices in London, Birmingham and Dublin, last month. The company’s website says it provides ‘specialist gender assessment for children, adolescent and young adults’.

The clinic, which opened in the 1980s, was strongly criticised for allegedly rushing thousands of teenagers on to life-altering puberty blocking drugs

They offer referrals to clinicians who provide hormone treatment and surgery.

Its gender assessment sessions cost £275 for a one-hour appointment and it is recommended that under-18s need six sessions for a ‘full assessment’ – taking the total bill to £1,650. But there are concerns from doctors that most consultations are being carried out remotely via Zoom calls.

Gender Plus’s clinical director Dr Aidan Kelly was at Tavistock for five years until it was closed down, while six other former Tavistock staff work for Gender Plus.

Its website claims the company is in the process of setting up an ‘associated hormone clinic’ run by consultant nurse Paul Carruthers, who was a member of the Tavistock NHS team from 2015 onwards.

But Gender Plus is already facing issues. The new clinic has alarmed officials at the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which started investigating its practices last week.

A source at the watchdog said: ‘Based on the information available on this company’s public website, the registration team has referred Gender Plus to the national enforcement team as an unregistered provider for further review of these services.’ Investigators will seek to establish whether Gender Plus should have been registered with the regulator prior to it opening.

Gender Plus’s clinical director Dr Aidan Kelly was at Tavistock for five years until it was closed down, while six other former Tavistock staff work for Gender Plus

Gender Plus’s clinical director Dr Aidan Kelly was at Tavistock for five years until it was closed down, while six other former Tavistock staff work for Gender Plus

However, Gender Plus say they are offering consultation and therapy sessions that do not require CQC oversight, as clinical services would. The watchdog previously branded the Tavistock’s gender unit as ‘inadequate’ following a 2020 inspection. Two years later it was shut down by the NHS, following almost two decades of concerns from former staff, patients and relatives.

Critics said the Tavistock clinic’s ‘affirmative’ treatment model ignored evidence that an astonishing 97.5 per cent of children seeking sex changes had autism, depression or other problems that might have explained their unhappiness, rather than gender dysphoria.

Dr Kelly is described by Gender Plus as having ‘specialist skills in the assessments of gender identity needs and making recommendations for gender affirming medical treatments’ and is ‘passionate about increasing access to care for gender questioning people’. But while the Gender Plus website lists eight of its employees as having ‘Dr’ in front of their name, none of them are registered with the General Medical Council, and instead have academic PhDs or doctorates in psychology.

One clinician, Igi Moon, previously claimed that considering gender to be a male-female binary is inherited ‘from colonialism’.

Last night, Dr Louise Irvine, a GP with 27 years’ experience who is part of the Clinical and Advisory Network on Sex and Gender, said: ‘Gender Plus employs several former Tavistock staff and appears to use the same discredited ‘affirmative’ model of care, involving referral for puberty blockers and hormones, that led to the decision to close it after a CQC inspection deemed it ‘inadequate’.

‘Gender Plus is not registered with the CQC, so how will patients and their parents know that they are getting safe and effective care from an unregulated provider?’ Concerns were also raised by distinguished psychiatrist and NHS whistleblower Dr David Bell, who worked at the Tavistock before he quit and issued a report accusing the clinic of causing ‘long-term damage’ to young patients.

Gender Plus's website claims the company is in the process of setting up an ‘associated hormone clinic’ run by consultant nurse Paul Carruthers, who was a member of the Tavistock NHS team from 2015 onwards

Gender Plus’s website claims the company is in the process of setting up an ‘associated hormone clinic’ run by consultant nurse Paul Carruthers, who was a member of the Tavistock NHS team from 2015 onwards

Patients tell of ‘mutilation’ and ‘damage’ from notorious centre 

Known only as Jasmine, she said she wanted to transition from a girl to a boy after being introduced to the idea on social media

Known only as Jasmine, she said she wanted to transition from a girl to a boy after being introduced to the idea on social media

Former Tavistock patients have told of the ‘damage’ they suffered after seeking treatment from its gender identity development service (GIDS) while vulnerable teenagers.

Kiera Bell, who later took the clinic to court, was referred to GIDS in 2013 during a mental health crisis, and told a therapist she thought she was a boy.

She told the MoS: ‘They didn’t explore any of my background or mental health. It seemed they just wanted to appease me, using my chosen male name, Quincy, and affirming me as a boy.’

At 16 she was given puberty-blocking drugs and told it would give her ‘more time to think’, but they had major side effects. Aged 20, she had surgery to remove her breasts but two years later realised she had made a mistake. Kiera, who now lives as a woman, said: ‘My whole life has been affected. You can’t even describe how much damage they caused.’

Another former patient, treated by the Tavistock clinic when she was 15, said she now feels like a ‘mutilated experiment gone wrong’ after undergoing irreversible surgery. Known only as Jasmine, she said she wanted to transition from a girl to a boy after being introduced to the idea on social media.

At GIDS she was honest about her history of mental health issues and self-harm. After three appointments, she was deemed trans and transferred to an adult clinic at the age of 17.

There, Jasmine said she was referred for hormones and a mastectomy. But they ‘made things a lot worse’. She later ‘detransitioned’ back to a girl and was discharged from the Tavistock with no aftercare.

‘I feel a little bit mutilated and like an experiment gone wrong,’ she told ITV, saying GIDS should have questioned if she was really trans. ‘I really needed someone to take an interest in my mental health outside of gender and not frame everything within my gender identity,’ she said.

He said: ‘Young people who present with gender identity problems have many other psychological disorders and it is vital that there is a full psychiatric and mental assessment – and I’m surprised that Gender Plus do not think it is necessary to have a psychiatrist as part of the team. I hope that the appropriate authorities will act quickly to prevent damage being done to children.’

Tory MP Dr Caroline Johnson, a former consultant paediatrician, said: ‘At a time when NHS England is improving care and safeguarding for this group of vulnerable children, it is of great concern to see a new, private ‘clinic’ being opened which does not appear to have any medical consultants and seems to have so many staff from the discredited Tavistock clinic.’

NHS England recently confirmed that it would prescribe puberty blockers to children only as part of clinical trials. It said there was ‘not enough evidence to support their safety or clinical effectiveness’. There are concerns that private clinics such as Gender Plus may be able to bypass the new protections.

Last year’s NHS review said there was not enough research on the long-term impact of hormones on young people.

It also raised fears that doctors were under pressure to adopt an unquestioning affirmative approach to gender identity.

Stella O’Malley, a psychotherapist and director of medical campaign group Genspect, said: ‘It is notable that, despite offering referrals for hormones and surgery, Gender Plus is not registered with the CQC which may highlight the lack of due care that is being offered by this enterprise.

‘We are deeply concerned that Gender Plus have established themselves as a clinic that will continue to follow the discredited gender affirmative model.

‘This system of care has been evaluated and found to be profoundly lacking. Gender Plus appears to be following a profit-making business model rather than following the Hilary Cass report which recommended multi-disciplinary regional teams operated through the NHS.’ Stephanie Davies-Arai, from Transgender Trend, added: ‘The worry is that this service is not registered with or regulated by the CQC, and that Gender Plus will provide a service based on ideology. This would put children at risk as it did at the Tavistock.’

Bayswater Support Group, which represents parents of transgender children, said: ‘It is very concerning that Gender Plus is already operating without being registered by the CQC and is therefore completely unregulated.

‘Gender Plus looks like Tavistock 2.0. The claim that this private clinic is following the evidence-based reforms set out by the Cass Review appears very unlikely.’

A spokesperson for Gender Plus said last night: ‘Our service management have previously clarified with the CQC that the holistic psycho-social service we provide, which includes gender, mental health and neurodevelopmental assessment and support, does not fall under their remit and as such is not eligible for CQC registration.

‘If in the future we do provide services which will require CQC registration then, of course, we will seek registration.’

It added that their team of experts in healthcare, mental health and neurodevelopment accepts referrals for children, adolescents and adults to help address ‘the huge level of unmet need’.

The CQC said it was not undertaking a criminal investigation but ‘if new information becomes available, that gives reasonable grounds to suspect an offence may have been committed, we will consider appropriate action’.

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