The Independent Review of Gender Identity Services for Children and Young People (The Cass Review) was commissioned by NHS England and NHS Improvement in Autumn 2020 to make recommendations about the services provided by the NHS to children and young people who are questioning their gender identity or experiencing gender incongruence. In commissioning the Review, NHS England and NHS Improvement set the following background and Terms of Reference:
NHS England is the responsible commissioner for specialised gender identity services for children and adolescents. The Gender Identity Development Service for children and adolescents is currently managed by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.
In recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of referrals to the Gender Identity Development Service, and this has occurred at a time when the service has moved from a psychosocial and psychotherapeutic model to one that also prescribes medical interventions by way of hormone drugs. This has contributed to growing interest in how the NHS should most appropriately assess, diagnose and care for children and young people who present with gender incongruence and gender identity issues.
It is in this context that NHS England and NHS Improvement’s Quality and Innovation Committee has asked Dr Hilary Cass to chair an independent review, and to make recommendations on how to improve services for children and young people experiencing issues with their gender identity or gender incongruence and ensure that the best model(s) for safe and effective services are commissioned.
The independent review, led by Dr Cass, will be wide ranging in scope and will conduct extensive engagement with all interested stakeholders. The review is expected to set out findings and make recommendations in relation to:
- Pathways of care into local services, including clinical management approaches for individuals with less complex expressions of gender incongruence who do not need specialist gender identity services;
- Pathways of care into specialist gender identity services, including referral criteria into a specialist gender identity service; and referral criteria into other appropriate specialist services;
- Clinical models and clinical management approaches at each point of the specialised pathway of care from assessment to discharge, including a description of objectives, expected benefits and expected outcomes for each clinical intervention in the pathway;
- Best clinical approach for individuals with other complex presentations;
- The use of gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogues and gender affirming drugs, supported by a review of the available evidence by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence; any treatment recommendations will include a description of treatment objectives, expected benefits and expected outcomes, and potential risks, harms and effects to the individual;
- Ongoing clinical audit, long term follow-up, data reporting and future research priorities;
- Current and future workforce requirements;
- Exploration of the reasons for the increase in referrals and why the increase has disproportionately been of natal females, and the implications of these matters; and,
- Any other relevant matters that arise during the course of the review.
In addition, and with support from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and other relevant professional associations, the Chair will review current clinical practice concerning individuals referred to the specialist endocrine service.
The review will not immediately consider issues around informed consent as these are the subject of an ongoing judicial review. However, any implications that might arise from the legal ruling could be considered by the review if appropriate or necessary.