Gender services for children and adolescents across the EU-15+ countries: an online survey

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BACKGROUND: Over the last 10-15 years, there has been an increase in the number of children and adolescents referred to gender services, particularly among adolescent birth-registered females. This population shows a higher prevalence of co-occurring mental health difficulties and neurodevelopmental conditions. Some countries have recently restricted access to medical treatments in recognition of the uncertain evidence base.

AIM: To understand the current provision of gender services for children and adolescents across the EU-15+ countries that have comparable high-income healthcare systems, to inform service development in the UK.

METHODS: An e-survey of paediatric gender services was conducted between September 2022 and April 2023. It covered service structure, care pathways, interventions and data collection. Data were described and compared to identify similarities and differences among participating services.

RESULTS: 15 services in eight countries (Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Northern Ireland, The Netherlands, Spain and Finland) responded. While a multidisciplinary team was present in all services, its composition and organisation varied. Clinical practice was informed by international guidelines, with four countries following their own national guidelines. Differences were observed in referral criteria, care pathways for prepubertal children and those with co-occurring conditions. Eligibility criteria for medical interventions also varied. Psychosocial support and interventions were limited, and outcome data collection was scarce.

CONCLUSIONS: This survey revealed both similarities and key variations in the clinical practice of paediatric gender services across eight different countries. The study emphasises the need for service development that both considers the management of co-occurring conditions and embeds routine data collection in practice.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Journal Archives of Disease in Childhood
Early online date9 Apr 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Apr 2024

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© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2024. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.

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