Dr David Bell, a former staff governor at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which oversees the clinic, made the remarks during an interview with Channel 4 News.
In 2018, the former governor reported clinicians’ concerns over patient welfare to the Trust in an internal report.
Dr Bell described concerns brought to him when he was a governor as “very, very serious” and said that many people who approached him did not think “children were able to consent to the treatment”.
The specialist criticised the “whole attitude of what’s called ‘affirmation’” – where children are affirmed in their transgender feelings.
He argued that such an attitude had “caused considerable damage to the capacity of the service and clinicians to take on the full complexities of the cases they were dealing with”, and as a result “children have been very seriously damaged.”
He also said: “It is not the clinician’s job to affirm, a clinician’s job is to listen sensitively, try and understand the person, but hold a neutral position which provides a field for development, which takes time and effort and professional expertise.”
When asked by Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman if he thought children were currently at risk at the clinic, Dr Bell replied that they were “less at risk” since prescribing puberty blockers had been stopped.
He said that the recent High Court ruling in favour of Keira Bell had protected “very disturbed” children from making hasty decisions and embarking on “inappropriate medical treatment”.
The psychiatrist challenged the common view that puberty blockers were reversible. He said: “We’re not video machines in which you can press a pause button and then release the button three years later.”
Dr Bell said “stopping puberty” involved ‘a person’s body, a person’s brain, a person’s psychology, a person’s social world, a person who is ready for puberty’, all of which had “long term consequences which are ill thought out”.
The former staff governor said that there had been an “invasion of the clinical domain” by a “highly politicised” ideology, which had captured medical policy and professional practice.
As a result of the undue influence of transgenderism, Dr Bell said children had been ‘motored though’ to “treatment pathways” with “irreversible consequences for their bodies”.
He explained: “A girl of twelve may find that she’s sexually attracted to other girls and it may go through her mind, as I think goes through many children’s minds, ‘Maybe I’m not a girl. Maybe I’m a boy’. If that happened ten, fifteen years ago, that would have been a passing phase, and things would have been moved on.
He added, now “such a girl may go online and she may easily come to the belief, not that she’s developing in a complex way a different sexual identity, that she really is a boy. And then having reached that view there’ll be lots of forces around which will support it.”
Afraid to speak
Dr Bell believed that anyone who spoke out against the children’s Gender Identity Development Service was likely to come under negative scrutiny and “exposed to the possibility of disciplinary hearings”.
He said: “Not long after my report came out the Chief Executive made a public statement in which he said ‘Those who raise criticisms against the trust have an unfortunate attitude to gender’”.
The retired governor suggested this was a message to staff who lacked the safety of seniority he had enjoyed, and was intended to make them think, “I better not speak out, because they’ll think I’m transphobic”.
In response to the interview, the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust released a short statement expressing its disappointment at the “allegations”.