Episode 104

104 — No Time to Think with Hannah Barnes: The Downfall of GIDS at the Tavistock

Published on: 3rd March, 2023

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 In writing the book, Hannah studied thousands of pages of documents, including internal emails and unpublished reports, and well over a hundred hours of personal testimony from GIDS clinicians, former service users, and senior Tavistock figures, to write a disturbing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.


Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Time-Think-Collapse-Tavistocks-Children-ebook/dp/B0BCL1T2XN

Swift Press: https://swiftpress.com/book/time-to-think/

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/time-to-think/hannah-barnes//9781800751118

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 “31 — Silencing Thought: A Conversation with Heather Brunskell-Evans”


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Extended Notes

  • 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]

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About the Podcast

Gender: A Wider Lens Podcast
Two therapists explore the expanding concept of "gender" from a psychological depth perspective.
Gender dysphoria has become a minefield for public discussion, with many afraid to express their views or question the narrative. Our mission is to examine this important and complex topic from a range of perspectives, but always through a psychological lens. By openly considering and examining gender identity, transition, and the transgender umbrella, we hope to give all interested parties permission to engage these fascinating topics with less fear and more honesty. Interviews and discussions will involve clinicians, medical professionals, academics, transgender people, parents, detransitioners and other interesting individuals whose lives have been touched by the concept of gender.

Conversations between two practicing therapists give listeners an opportunity to contemplate gender from a depth perspective not currently taken up in most of today’s accessible debates. As a result of their work with gender dysphoric therapy clients as well as their personal divergent experiences with gender, Stella and Sasha hold a refreshing and informed perspective.

Is gender identity a facilitation of development and expression of creativity, or can it be a defense against painful existential realities of living in a human body? What can we discover about masculinity, femininity, identity, gender performance, and sexuality when we peer beneath the surface and dive into a deeper psychological exploration? What is the relationship between body, mind, identity, culture, and psyche?

This podcast engages listeners in an intimate and fascinating behind-the-scenes inquiry about a topic as taboo as it is salient today.

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GETA - an association of therapists who believe that individuals experiencing gender related concerns ought to be treated using a whole person approach. GETA connects like minded clinicians, provides educational resources and trainings, and helps people with gender dysphoria find support. For more info, visit genderexploratory.com.
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About your hosts

Stella O'Malley

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Stella O’Malley is a psychotherapist and author who works in private practice in Ireland. Her work focuses on parenting, family dynamics and working with teenagers.

Much of Stella’s counselling and writing focuses on mental health and the importance of well-being and she is a regular contributor to the media. She is also the resident psychotherapist for the current TV series, Raised by the Village, a family programme that helps troubled teenagers reconnect with themselves and their families.

Stella's first book, Cotton Wool Kids, was released in 2015 while Bully-Proof Kids: Practical tools to help kids grow up confident, resilient and strong was released in 2017. Stella’s latest book Fragile, was released in 2019 and focuses on overcoming anxiety and stress.

Stella was the presenter of the documentary Trans - Kids: It’s Time To Talk broadcast on Channel 4 in November 2018 and she contributed a chapter to the 2019 book, Inventing Transgender Children and Young People.

The Jungian analyst, Lisa Marchiano, and Stella launched Secrets of the Motherworld in September 2019, offering thoughtful exploration of the most intimate aspects of motherhood in a bid to help mothers feel less alone.

Stella is a Clinical Advisor for the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners. She is also the lead facilitator for the Gender Dysphoria Support Network.

Stella holds a B.A. in Counselling and Psychotherapy and a M.A. in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Sasha Ayad

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Sasha Ayad is a Licensed Professional Counselor who works in private practice, and has treated adolescents for over 10 years. Her work focuses on teens and young adults struggling with issues of gender dysphoria and gender identity.

She became interested in the sharp rise in teenagers who declare a trans identity for the first time during adolescence. She discovered, through working with hundreds of families, that many teens were developing gender dysphoria only after adopting a transgender identity. She questions the practice of medical transition for children and teenagers, and her clinical work focuses on developmentally appropriate, least-invasive-first talk therapy.

Sasha is also a founding member and Clinical Advisor in the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners.

Sasha’s previous work experience includes:
- School counselor for middle and high school students at a charter school for underserved communities

- Behavioral therapy with children on the autism spectrum

- Individual and group counseling for women and children impacted by domestic abuse and sexual violence

- Developed and ran the first counseling program at a large state supported living facility for adults with intellectual disability

Sasha holds a B.S. in Psychology and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology.