Pharmacists must be able to refer young people with gender dysphoria for support, says regulator

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council, has warned that a lack of clear referral routes could lead people to seek alternative options, such as unregulated products or private clinics outside of the UK.
Teenage boy in medical consultation

All organisations providing gender identity services should make sure that there are clear routes for pharmacy professionals to refer children and young people for the support and care they need, the pharmacy regulator has said.

In a statement made by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) on 21 March 2024, Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, warned that without clear referral routes and reduced waiting times for gender identity services, “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”.

The GPhC statement follows the publication of a new NHS England clinical policy on the use of puberty suppressing hormones, also known as puberty blockers.

The policy, published on 12 March 2024, says that puberty suppressing hormones should not be available as a routine option for the treatment of children and young people who have gender incongruence or gender dysphoria.

It follows a consultation on an interim version of the same clinical policy, which ran from August to November 2023.

In the GPhC statement, Rudkin said: “We recognise the challenges that pharmacy professionals may face in relation to prescriptions for puberty suppressing hormones. 

“We understand that many children and young people experiencing gender incongruence or dysphoria are waiting for lengthy periods to be assessed or to receive treatment, and that this can have a significant negative impact on their mental health. It is important 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.” 

Rudkin urged pharmacy professionals in England to familiarise themselves with NHS England’s new clinical policy and said pharmacy professionals should “take account of it when making decisions in relation to puberty suppressing hormones”. 

“We also understand that some pharmacies are being presented with prescriptions for puberty suppressing hormones, and other medications relating to treatment for gender incongruence, that have come from prescribers working for private clinics based in Great Britain or overseas,” he added.

“We expect pharmacies to have taken active steps to assure themselves that all prescribers, including those working for private clinics based outside the UK, comply with relevant UK and national regulatory and professional guidance.”

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, March 2024, Vol 312, No 7983;312(7983)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.305881

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