Parents and campaigners have expressed concern over a private gender clinic that gives the go-ahead to teenagers to get sex-change drugs after as little as an hour.
One mother claimed her 18-year-old son was told he was eligible for transgender, or cross-sex, hormones after a single consultation lasting just 55 minutes. Another said that her 18-year-old daughter was given a referral to get gender changing medication after a 90-minute video call.
Both teenagers were given the hormones after being assessed by consultant psychiatrist Dr Stuart Lorimer at his GenderCare centre in Mayfair, London. The treatment delivers oestrogen or testosterone to begin the physical process of transitioning to live as the opposite sex.
There is no suggestion that Dr Lorimer or GenderCare, which sees individuals from the age of 18 and charges up to £300 per appointment, have contravened any medical guidelines. But parents and campaigners are concerned by the speed at which drugs that can have serious health risks, including blood clots, strokes and infertility, are being prescribed to potentially vulnerable young people.
Parents and campaigners have raised concerns following advice given by GenderCare founder Dr Stuart Lorimer to teenagers to get sex-change drugs after as little as an hour
They argue that one appointment is insufficient to diagnose gender dysphoria – a mismatch between a person’s birth sex and the gender they feel they are.
One mother told The Mail on Sunday that she complained to Dr Lorimer after her son, who had just turned 18, received an oestrogen prescription in the post following a 55-minute assessment.
‘The whole thing was utterly horrifying. The appointment lasted for less than an hour because Dr Lorimer felt they had covered all they needed to cover, although I felt they had barely touched the surface in that time,’ she said.
‘My husband and I were extremely worried that what we thought was an exploratory chat has resulted in him taking life-changing, sterilising medication. We feel extremely concerned that he was rushed into this too fast.’
Another mother in the South East claims her 18-year-old daughter was referred for cross-sex hormones after one video Zoom call. The woman said: ‘I was so shocked and taken aback that she had been prescribed hormones after one session. I neither thought she’d had meaningful therapy nor enough life experience to take a course of action that is irremediable.
‘I find it incredible after that one video call – relying totally on an 18-year-old’s presentation of evidence without any attempt to either get doctors’ records or bring a family interview into it – that they have agreed to prescribe life-changing medication.’
With waiting times for a first appointment at an NHS gender clinic now reported to be about 18 months, increasing numbers of young people are turning to private clinics for care. Many have spoken enthusiastically of their experiences at GenderCare.
One user of Tumblr, a social-media site popular with young people, wrote: ‘Today I had my first two gender appointments with a private clinic called GenderCare in London and I’ve come away with the green light to start testosterone as soon as I have a repeat set of bloods done.’
Another Twitter user wrote: ‘I just had my appointment with GenderCare. They are supporting the dysphoria diagnosis and hormone referral. I’m so excited I’m practically bouncing off the walls.’
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has no guidelines on treatment of adults with gender dysphoria, but NHS England says patients given cross-sex hormones must be recommended by a medical doctor in a ‘specialist multi-disciplinary team’.
A spokeswoman for the Bayswater Support Group, which helps parents of children suffering gender confusion, said: ‘Current NHS treatment protocols for the relief of gender dysphoria in often vulnerable young people in their late teens and early 20s are unsafe and a risk to their long-term health.’
GenderCare was set up in 2010 by Dr Lorimer. In a section on its website, one question asks: ‘How long before I’m started on hormones?’ The answer states: ‘It depends on your particular situation and clinician but, as a general rule, you need to undergo two assessments, one with a general/psych and one with a medical/endo clinician.’
Neither GenderCare nor Dr Lorimer responded to a request for comment. Its website states: ‘GenderCare is a network of individual healthcare practitioners, all qualified professionals experienced in the gender field… We work flexibly within national and international guidelines of best practice.’