Former Tavistock psychiatrist explains why he blew the whistle on gender clinic

The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust building in London, England. | YouTube/Sky News

A Tavistock whistleblower whose detailed report raised concerns about the treatment children with gender identity struggles received at the London gender clinic recently detailed the various ways the NHS Trust attempted to silence him.

Dr. David Bell, a psychiatrist, said he feels vindicated by the court ruling against the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust last December that was brought, in part, by Keira Bell, a 24-year-old formerly transgender-identified woman who was a patient at the clinic as a teenager.

The decision held that minors age 16 and younger are not capable of giving informed consent to experimental practices such as puberty-suppressing drugs and cross-sex hormones in pursuit of changing their physical appearance to look more like the opposite sex. The clinic is appealing the ruling and the matter will be heard this summer. 

Bell, a practicing psychoanalyst, wrote a 2018 report about what was occurring in the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), a clinic within the Tavistock facility. His report said clinicians were fast-tracking young adults into medicalized gender transitions without fully exploring the contributing factors that led to their psychological distress. 

“I felt concerned that we’d moved away from the values [of care] the Trust has embodied for so long,” Bell told The Guardian of the verdict against the Tavistock clinic, adding that he's shocked by how little has changed since the ruling regarding the management structure of the institution.

What has changed “feels like window-dressing,” he said.

Among the findings in the high court's ruling was that the clinic’s record-keeping was substandard, and it hadn't adequately maintained data regarding how many patients were being treated who are autistic. Those findings mirrored the concerns Bell had previously raised in his 2018 review, which was first set in motion when 10 members of the GIDS staff spoke to him about their own alarm about what they saw happening.

One of the concerned staffers recounted how an 8-year-old child was referred to an endocrinologist for the experimental drugs. Another staffer reportedly told him: “I could not go on like this … I could not live with myself given the poor treatment the children were obtaining.”

Yet when he submitted the report, the Trust was not receptive. Instead, they were defensive.

“I believed I was doing the right thing,” he said of his efforts to document the unscrupulous practices. “I never doubted that, and most of my colleagues in the adult department supported me, so when I went up to my floor at the Tavistock, I could be oblivious and get on with my work. The real betrayal wasn’t of me personally, but of the Trust’s duty to whistleblowers and to its wider mission.”

The institution, however, tried to squelch his voice, he said. They did this by telling media outlets that Bell’s claims were historical and that the clinic was following proper protocols, the Guardian reported. The tactics they used were sinister, he added.

When Bell tried to obtain relevant data from GIDS to write his report, he received no answers. He was subsequently sent an “unpleasant letter” from the Trust’s chief executive informing him that the clinic and its staff were under no obligation to reply to him. Bell maintains that the clinic didn't have the data in question (due to poor record-keeping) nor did they want him to have access to any records they did have.

After he submitted his 2018 review, the clinic removed a book, for which he had written the introduction, from its library. The clinic also sent a GIDS staffer to spy on him when he spoke at a conference in Manchester about de-transition — the process formerly trans-identified individuals go through to return to their birth sex. Bell was eventually told that he was not allowed to speak publicly or write about anything not connected to his employment within the NHS.  

In November 2018, he received two letters threatening disciplinary action, accusing him of “bullying,” though he was not told whom he had bullied. The letters additionally asked him to agree not to speak anymore with the Trust’s director of child safeguarding. 

In his interview with The Guardian, Bell raised warnings about the use of puberty blockers for children suffering from gender dysphoria. Such drugs are used to cease puberty growth in otherwise physically healthy children. He vehemently rejects assertions from transgender activists that hormone suppressants simply buy patients time to decide whether they wish to continue with a transition. 

“The child will never want to come off the hormones and 98% do now stay on them. This could be a dangerous collusion on the part of the doctor. The body is not a video machine. You can’t just press a pause button. You have to ask what it really means to stop puberty,” he said. 

The whistleblower psychiatrist believes that a case like Keira Bell’s was “inevitable” and that care for distressed young people should be carried out locally. “Gender dysphoria clinics should be part of child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) and available nationwide,” Bell said. “At the moment, children who are suffering extreme distress in relation to their bodies are sent to the Tavistock and the problem then goes away at local level, where psychotherapy services are on their knees.”

Earlier this year, Marcus Evans, another Tavistock whistleblower who was a consultant psychotherapist on an internal review that the clinic’s medical director led, detailed his own reasons for exposing the troubling culture within the facility where minors were being persuaded to pursue experimental transgender medical practices. Following the Trust’s board and council of governor’s approval of the internal report, Evans resigned, accusing the NHS Trust of possessing “overvalued belief” in GIDS expertise.

"As a mental health practitioner who is proud to be in the business, I'm really quite ashamed ... this is political belief and ideology over rational, scientific argument," Evans said of the Tavistock clinic's practices in an interview with Triggernometery.

Evans noted that trans activist groups had an outsized influence in an institution that should be governed by medical science and that the issue of gender dysphoria was highly politicized.

"Once your decision-making is based on a pre-existing belief structure, maybe embedded within the clinicians, maybe met by some of the parents ... you're not in a clinical environment," he said. 

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