Hannah Barnes is Investigations Producer at the BBC’s flagship television news and current affairs program, Newsnight. She has spent the last 15 years at the BBC, specializing in investigative and analytical journalism for both television and radio. Hannah led Newsnight’s coverage of the care available to young people experiencing gender-related distress at the UK’s National Health Service’s (NHS) only youth gender clinic in England and Wales, the Gender Identity Development Services (GIDS) at the Tavistock in London.
In this episode, Sasha and Stella speak with Hannah about how, although she continued to report and expose questions, nothing changed and she eventually felt compelled to write a book; as she says herself “I knew too much.” In this probing discussion, issues such as puberty blockers, overwhelming caseloads, and the impact of lobby groups, such as Mermaids, are highlighted and explored.
Hannah’s work at Newsnight ultimately helped precipitate an extensive review by the NHS and unearthed evidence that was later used in several sets of legal proceedings. Newsnight’s reporting also led directly to an inspection by England’s healthcare regulator, the Care Quality Commission, which branded the services provided by the GIDS clinic “Inadequate.” The service is scheduled to close in spring 2023 following a series of critical reports.
Hannah’s new book, Time To Think: The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Tavistock’s Gender Service for Children, is a meticulously researched account of what went wrong at the Tavistock Clinic, which made headlines around the world on publication. In writing the book, Hannah studied thousands of pages of documents, including internal emails and unpublished reports, and well over a hundred hours of personal testimony from GIDS clinicians, former service users, and senior Tavistock figures, to write a disturbing and gripping parable of our times.
Swift Press: https://swiftpress.com/book/time-to-think/
Newsnight coverage of GIDS at the Tavistock: https://www.bayswatersupport.org.uk/bbc-newsnight-coverage
If you liked this episode, more episodes you might find interesting:
- Episode “27 — Behind the Curtain: Psychotherapy for Gender Dysphoria with Sue and Marcus Evans” https://gender-a-wider-lens.captivate.fm/episode/27-behind-the-curtain-psychotherapy-for-gender-dysphoria-with-sue-and-marcus-evans
- Episode “31 — Silencing Thought: A Conversation with Heather Brunskell-Evans”
- Episode “64 — Pioneers Series: Psychotherapy Pre- and Post-Transition with Az Hakeem” https://gender-a-wider-lens.captivate.fm/episode/64-pioneers-series-psychotherapy-pre-and-post-transition-with-az-hakeem
- Episode “91 — Uncovering the GIDS Disaster: Dr. Dave Bell” https://gender-a-wider-lens.captivate.fm/episode/91-uncovering-the-gids-disaster-dr-dave-bell
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- In 2006, a report about the Tavistock was ignored for 15 years.
- In 2020, a high court case: it was unlikely kids could consent to the treatments they were receiving.
- Hannah first came across doctors’ reports of the Tavistock in 2017.
- Hannah felt compelled to write Time To Think: The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Tavistock’s Gender Service for Children because she felt the information needed to be known by the public.
- In 2002, an audit of the Tavistock showed that there was no standard of care for treatment.
- Not every clinician at the Tavistock thought it appropriate for a majority of the young people to go on puberty blockers.
- The Tavistock clinicians all approached their work in fundamentally different ways.
- Hannah finds it odd that management at GIDS is reluctant to admit that anything is wrong.
- The family environment at GIDS made it difficult for clinicians to raise concerns or leave the organization.
- Many thought that if GIDS didn’t offer puberty blockers as a treatment they wouldn’t have a service to provide.
- You don’t have to take hormones to be trans.
- Susie Green, who used to run Mermaids, went to GIDS and made requests for patients to be prescribed puberty blockers.
- Some physicians believe the work of GIDS was not thorough and unsafe.
- Tavistock is scheduled to close in the spring of 2023.
“What are the odds of every single young person thinking exactly the same way? Adolescents don’t, generally.” — Hannah Barnes [26:29]
“I do find the seeming reluctance at GIDS to admit that anything has gone wrong ... quite odd.” — Hannah Barnes [48:41]
“To hold the line that everybody got the best care that they could have, I don’t think it stands up to scrutiny.” — Hannah Barnes [49:50]
“This isn’t a story about people's right to transition, it's about whether it’s safe.” — Hannah Barnes [1:16:36]