Medical negligence

What is the Tavistock clinic scandal?

The recent news that the NHS Tavistock Centre is facing mass legal action has caused grave concern amongst many. Here, our medical negligence experts discuss the news, and the legal implications this might have.

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teenage boy with mother at table

What is the Tavistock clinic?

The Tavistock clinic, also known as the Gender and Identity Development Service (GIDS), was founded in 1989, with the aim of helping children and young people struggling with their gender identity. The main clinic is Central London but there are also satellite GIDS clinics serving other regions of the UK: North (Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle), Midlands (Nottingham and Northampton) and South (Devon).

The original plan for the clinic was to help young people overcome the feelings of distress and confusion around their gender identity. This was primarily done through talking therapies in small groups with the aim of breaking down stigmas and providing children a safe space to discuss openly.

In 2007, the clinic was treating around 50 people a year, though by the announcement of its closure in 2022, the clinic had a waitlist in the thousands.

What is the Tavistock children scandal?

Concerning reports surrounding the Tavistock Centre have surfaced in light of patients coming forward to reveal the truth about their treatment, with many struggling after undergoing radical and permanent transition surgery at a young age.

These problems have been accumulating over the past few years, casting a shadow over the practices of the clinic and satellite clinics.

In the clinic’s 35 year history, it has treated over 9000 children for gender dysphoria, but there are concerns that potentially hundreds of people, under the age of 17, were rushed into taking hormones, commonly known as “puberty blockers”, without adequate therapy beforehand.

In 2020, after concerns were raised by whistleblowers that the patients were being put on gender transitioning treatments too quickly, the centre was inspected and rated as “inadequate”, and there were concerns over the growing waitlist. As of 2021/22 there were over 5000 referrals to the clinic.

The Cass review, an independent report, was commissioned after concerns from whistleblowers were made public. The service was seeing a rise in demand, and with rising scrutiny around the GIDS’ approach and the clinics’ capacity, the report noted that:

  • The clinic’s approach was not a safe or viable long term option
  • The service was struggling to handle growing waiting lists
  • Not keeping “routine and consistent” patient data
  • Patients who had other healthcare issues, like neurodiversity or mental health issues, had them overlooked during their treatment
  • Staff felt under pressure to adopt an "unquestioning affirmative approach"

In July 2022, NHS England announced the closure of the clinic, which was due to be completed by spring 2023, it has since been pushed back to spring 2024. According to the NHS, this is because of “complexity” of the project that required “revisions to the timetable.”

Based on the findings of the Cass report, NHS England plans to introduce new changes to gender clinics, which includes two regional centres, a southern hub to open in Autumn 2023, and a northern hub to open in 2024.

Why is Tavistock clinic facing legal action?

The Tavistock clinic is facing legal action for potentially failing their duty of care. Young children could have been harmed during an extremely vulnerable stage of their lives, being rushed into taking puberty blockers (recently classified as experimental drugs) and transitioning at a young age without sufficient consideration for their long term wellbeing. The treatments are permanent and can cause irreversible damage to fertility and development.

Laura Preston, principal medical negligence lawyer, who worked in the Paterson case both during the initial litigation and on an ongoing basis, spoke on this in an interview with iNews. She said: “it’s certainly very concerning that there are significant numbers of patients who have been passing through this clinic and reporting similar things.”

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How to claim for medical negligence

We place our trust in medical professionals. Not receiving adequate care can have a profound impact on the individual who has been mistreated and misdiagnosed. Although we understand that financial compensation and medical rehabilitation can’t change the difficult situation you’ve faced, it can greatly support you in your recovery. Medical negligence claims can allow you to seek a sense of justice and begin to move forward.

Our medical negligence solicitors are experts in their field, and have previously represented clients on several high profile cases, including Ian Paterson’s patients. More than 750 patients treated by Paterson received compensation from the £37 million fund. Our specialist team put forward several cases showing various issues experienced by the claimants. This allowed for the court to consider there being a pattern but, with each case, damages were assessed on individual patient’s unique history and experience.

Cases evolving from the negligence caused by Tavistock will require the same individualised approach. It’s crucial for these vulnerable individuals to seek assistance from a legal firm that not only comprises clinical negligence specialists, but also possesses extensive experience in complex and ground-breaking group litigation. Our team of experts specialise in this specific field of law and has a proven track record of handling such cases over a considerable period of time.

We believe that individuals negatively affected by their experiences at GIDS Tavistock may be eligible for compensation. A group litigation may also bring about change in the system and allow the NHS to re-evaluate its approach and learn lessons from identified failures to assist vulnerable young people facing gender identity crises in the future.

We’re passionate about ensuring transitioning support is available to those that need it whilst also making sure that appropriate safeguards are put in place for vulnerable individuals.

If you or a loved one have been affected by the issues emerging from the Tavistock Centre, our medical negligence experts are here to help. To speak to us today in a free, confidential consultation, and talk through any concerns or questions you might have, call us today on 0330 041 5869, or contact us online here.

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