18 Apr 2024

Ministry of Health delays review into use of puberty blockers

2:06 pm on 18 April 2024
A girl in denim t-shirt with rainbow symbol wear backpack in summer park outdoor.

(file image) Photo: 123RF

The Health Ministry has again delayed its long-awaited review of the evidence for transgender children and teenagers' use of puberty blockers after a highly critical report from Britain.

Hormone blockers, which stop the physical changes of puberty, are under scrutiny internationally, after a four-year independent inquiry in Britain found "remarkably weak evidence" for their use.

Last week, the New Zealand Ministry of Health announced its own evidence brief - which was originally due in November - would be published this week.

However, chief medical officer Dr Joe Bourne said he now expected it to be released in "the very near future", along with a position statement to give clinicians guidance.

"The Ministry of Health is awaiting some final feedback on its position statement from key stakeholders.

"In addition, a considerable amount of new material was published in the UK last week. The ministry is taking time to review this material against our own evidence brief for any new findings."

Dr Bourne thanked the public for their ongoing patience.

"We know there is considerable public interest in the evidence brief and the issue in general."

Britain's National Health Service banned the routine use of puberty blockers for gender affirming care in March, ahead of the release of the final report by leading paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass.

The Professional Association for Transgender Healthcare Aotearoa (PATHA) has been dismissive of the Cass report, which it said failed to uphold the experience of affirmative care.

A spokesperson, Dr Rona Carroll, said the sector would welcome more long-term research, but there was evidence that gender-affirming medications improved wellbeing.

Health New Zealand Te Whatu Ora has commissioned PATHA to update its guidelines for gender-affirming care for healthcare professionals, which will cover the use of puberty blockers. That work is due to be completed by August.

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