The HSE last year spent €50,000 on a program that allows children and young adults to attend controversial sex treatment clinics in the UK.
HSE figures show 13 children were placed in a treatment program abroad to attend NHS Foundation Trust clinics in Tavistock and Portman over the past year.
The centers will be the subject of an investigation launched by UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid over concerns the gender-based treatment system there is failing children.
A recent review of the clinics by the former President of the UK’s Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health found that staff working in the gender treatment system felt pressured to take “an undeniably positive approach” to the transition to take over.
It also said that gender issues caused other mental health issues to be “overshadowed”.
NHS data shows that the number of Irish referrals to these services has increased steadily over the past decade, with 234 since 2011.
An HSE spokeswoman said patients are being referred to Tavistock and Portman clinics for services not available in Ireland.
Referrals can only be made by specialist physicians treating public patients who have personally examined patients within the last two weeks.
Under the Treatment Abroad Scheme doctors were paid to travel to Ireland and provide an outpatient clinic in Dublin, but this is no longer the case and patients now have to travel to the UK.
Continued use of the UK service “is the responsibility of the referring adviser,” the spokeswoman said.
“The HSE is investigating the availability of the service in other EU jurisdictions, but for obvious reasons the service needs to be available in English.”
Between 2011 and 2014 there were nine referrals from Irish doctors to the services, according to UK data. In 2015 there were 15.
There was a significant increase in 2016 with 38 transfers, compared to 36 in the following year. In 2018 there were 49 recommendations, in 2019 there were 42.
Numbers declined during the pandemic, with 25 referrals in 2020. The doctors made 20 referrals in the past year. A child can be counted more than once in the referral data. Children between the ages of five and 17 were referred.
The NHS said young people with persistent signs of gender dysphoria who meet strict criteria can be referred to a consultant endocrinologist or hormone specialist, who can prescribe hormone blockers that halt the physical changes of puberty.
Reports in the UK last week suggest Mr Javid is concerned children at risk have been treated with sex hormones before alternatives have been explored.
Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) previously said it had no concerns about the treatment service being offered to Irish children by clinics Tavistock and Portman but did not respond to a request for comment this weekend.
Consulting endocrinologist Professor Donal O’Shea previously claimed that hormone blockers used to suppress puberty are unsafe.
This weekend he said that Sunday independent he remains worried.
Prof O’Shea said the causes of an increase in youth gender issues over the past five to 10 years are not fully understood.
“This means that a very careful assessment and great caution is required before doing anything irreversible,” he said.
“The assessments we saw in children were vague and inappropriate, but facilitated the initiation of treatment.
“Even this week I saw one young person feel that if they had been given more time to explore their orientation and gender 10 years ago, they might have made different decisions.
“We do not have a pediatric endocrine service to support treatment if that is suggested by the UK assessment team.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/hse-spends-50000-to-send-children-to-gender-treatment-clinics-41604443.html HSE spends €50,000 to send children to sex treatment clinics