Kemi Badenoch: Civil servants tried to stop me talking to gender clinic whistleblowers

The former equalities minister also insisted officials undermined her enquiries with leaks. The NHS announced on Thursday it would shut The Tavistock Centre in north-west London after a review found it was not safe for youngsters.

The decision was in response to the interim Cass Review, which warned that medics had felt “under pressure to adopt an unquestioning affirmative approach” to gender identity.

Paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass also raised concerns about the use of puberty-blocking drugs.

But Ms Badenoch, a rising star within the Tory Party, said Whitehall “group-think” stopped action from being taken earlier.

She said the row over the NHS centre showed the need for “strengthening a civil service that is terrified of controversy”. Ms Badenoch reportedly said that when she was appointed to the equalities brief in 2020, the NHS Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust was “presented to me by government officials as a positive medical provision to support children”.

She added: “I was assured there was ‘nothing to see here’. If anything, the Tavistock was getting unfair bad press.This was despite whistleblowers, like Dr David Bell, raising concerns.”

Civil servants in Ms Badenoch’s department allegedly suggested it was “inappropriate” for her to speak to Keira Bell, a former patient who took The Tavistock Centre to court in 2020 and won her case against GIDS to stop children with gender dysphoria being prescribed the drugs.

The former minister added: “I overruled the formal advice.”

Ms Badenoch said that when she began looking at the clinic she was alarmed that “officials seemed to be consulting the same people and previous ministers had created an LGBT advisory panel that was clearly suffering from group-think”.

She said there was a “small minority of activist officials” and accused some permanent secretaries of being “too scared to challenge their staff”.

Investigators for Dr Cass are seeking to contact 9,000 people treated there as children, among them an esti- mated 1,000 referred for puberty blockers. Patients will be asked about their treatment and seek their consent to examine medical records – with the law amended to allow her to do so.

A group, representing about 500 parents with children treated at The Tavistock Centre, said that it is compiling a list of doctors for referral to the General Medical Council over alleged malpractice. Psychotherapist Stella O’Malley set up Genspect, an international alliance that advocates a different model from “the current ‘affirmative’ approach”.

She said parents plan to write to the Met Police asking for an investigation into how some cases were handled.

Criticisms of the clinic – to be replaced by regional centres – include that it rushed teenagers into taking puberty-blocking drugs. Dr Cass has attacked its lack of record keeping.

Whitehall officials were approached last night for comment.

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