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GPhC issues advice on supporting children and young people with gender identity issues

The importance of pharmacy professionals signposting children and young people experiencing gender identity issues such as gender incongruence or dysphoria to appropriate support services has been emphasised by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).

This comes after NHS England published its clinical policy on puberty suppressing hormones in March, which confirms that puberty suppressing hormones are not available as a routine commissioning treatment option for treatment of children and young people in England who have gender incongruence or dysphoria.

According to the policy, NHS England said it had ‘carefully considered’ the evidence review into puberty suppressing hormones conducted by NICE in 2020 and ‘identified and reviewed any further published evidence available to date’ before concluding that ‘there is not enough evidence to support the safety or clinical effectiveness of [puberty suppressing hormones] to make the treatment routinely available at this time’.

Noting the lengthy waiting lists for the assessment and/or treatment of children and young people experiencing gender incongruence or dysphoria, and the potential negative impact of this on their mental health, the GPhC has highlighted the need for pharmacy professionals to be able to identify children, young people and families who may be vulnerable, or at risk, and signpost them to appropriate support services.

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, said: ‘The starting point is that pharmacy professionals must provide person-centred care, within the current relevant legal and regulatory context.

‘We expect health and care professionals to take account of relevant national and local policies and guidance, alongside our standards and guidance.

‘For pharmacy professionals in England, this includes to familiarising themselves with this clinical policy from NHS England and ensuring they take account of it when making decisions in relation to puberty suppressing hormones.’

He added that ‘pharmacy professionals in Scotland and Wales should continue to practise in line with relevant polices and guidance in their countries and seek advice from their local health board if needed’.

To support pharmacy professionals in the relevant signposting, the GPhC has asked all organisations involved in providing gender-related services to make sure there are ‘clear routes for pharmacy professionals to refer children and young people for the support and care they may need’.

Mr Rudkin also called for these organisations to ensure waiting times are reduced as far as possible. ‘Otherwise we’re mindful that people may try to seek alternative options such as sourcing unregulated products online or through private clinics outside of the UK which exposes them to additional risks’, he said.

The GPhC has also updated its article on gender identity and pharmaceutical care for children and young people to reference the new NHS England clinical policy.

‘We encourage all pharmacy professionals [working across Great Britain] to re-read this as it provides useful advice on inclusive and compassionate care when providing any services relating to gender incongruence in children and young people, including supporting vulnerable and at-risk patients, and making decisions about the clinical appropriateness of medicines,’ Mr Rudkin added.

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