A whistleblower at the National Health Service was awarded over $27,600 (£20,000) in damages after an employment tribunal found that she was mistreated after raising concerns about the safety of prescribing experimental drugs to children suffering from gender dysphoria at a London-based gender clinic.
A central London employment tribunal ruled Friday that Sonia Appleby, a social worker and psychotherapist, was "seen as hostile" and had been put through "quasi-disciplinary" proceedings after she addressed her concerns to management at the Tavistock and Portman Trust, the UK Times reported. Appleby served as the child safeguarding lead at the clinic.
The tribunal held that Appleby, who began working at the Tavistock facility in 2004, had endured "significant" injury to her feelings and that the trust had mishandled the matter in a way that damaged her professional reputation and had "prevented her from proper work on safeguarding."
Appleby's case was heard earlier this summer following a judicial review ruling against the clinic amid years of growing scrutiny of Tavistock, the U.K.'s sole gender clinic.
The safeguarding lead who won her case at the employment tribunal was reportedly approached by several clinic staffers in recent years who had raised their own concerns about a particular doctor who had been prescribing puberty blockers to children who were being seen at the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) or were on the waiting list for assessment.
Appleby "went on to make six protected disclosures between 2017 and 2019, the tribunal heard, including about 'challenges' at GIDS with what she described as 'rogue medics and the political expectations of the national service,' as well as splits within the team," the U.K. Times reported.
Appleby further detailed that employees were so overworked they neglected to employ safeguarding measures.
In its ruling, the employment tribunal said Appleby was “seen as hostile” to a service “already under external pressure from politicized groups, and the internal pressure of sometimes acrimonious splits between clinicians."
“The injustice was obvious and the claimant’s upset entirely understandable,” the tribunal panelists continued.
“She was nearing the end of a long and blameless career, and as far as we can see had always tried to act responsibly over the safeguarding concerns of GIDS staff.”
The U.K. High Court of Justice held late last year, in a case against the clinic brought forward in part by a young woman named Keira Bell, that children younger than 16 are incapable of giving informed consent to experimental practices and procedures, including puberty-suppressing drugs. The court also criticized the clinic in its ruling for their shoddy recordkeeping practices, something that Appleby had attempted to address.
In March, the court made a subsequent ruling, in what some saw as a partial reversal of its initial decision, holding that parents could give consent for puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones on behalf of their minor children.
The initial ruling, however, has had ripple effects across northern Europe. Sweden's Karolinska Hospital announced earlier this year that as of April 1, puberty blockers would no longer be prescribed to youth younger than 16, citing the U.K. ruling in its statement on the matter. Sweden's neighbor Finland moved similarly earlier this summer.
The Tavistock clinic has maintained — as it did in an appeal of the Bell ruling in July — that its staff should be allowed to prescribe experimental drugs in order to offer "options" to children suffering from gender dysphoria.
In a January interview with Triggernometry podcast hosts Konstantin Kisin and Francis Foster, another whistleblower, Dr. Marcus Evans, said Tavistock had become politicized and had moved away from a clinically grounded approach to treating patients. His wife, Sue, also a mental health professional who worked at the clinic, was also frustrated with the environment at the facility.
"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 at the time, speaking of the prevailing ideology influencing the clinic's protocol.
He added, noting his wife's frustrations: "What she felt was that there should be a thorough psychological investigation, as was the Tavistock's tradition, into five family dynamics, individual psychology. And she felt there was too much of a willingness to sort of go along with the kid in terms of the kid's idea [to transition]," he said.
Many youths being treated with gender issues were often suffering from a number of mental health conditions, he noted.