Great Ormond Street hospital is failing to meet national standards and guidelines of care for intersex patients, it has been claimed.
NHS regulator, the Care Quality Commission, is investigating after the BBC said it found that some intersex patients and their families were not provided with any psychological care before irreversible surgery at the world famous hospital.
The broadcaster said it also found evidence that some operations were taking place on intersex babies and children without discussion by specialist teams.
The hospital is one of the leading authorities on care for people who are intersex, which means they are born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not seem to fit typical definitions of male or female.
Up to 1.7% of people have intersex traits, roughly the same proportion of the population who have red hair, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The British charity DSD Families estimates that around 130 babies born in this country each year need investigations before their sex is assigned, although in many cases problems are only identified later in life.
The BBC says Gosh declined to say if it was meeting national standards.
Prof Ted Baker, chief inspector of hospitals at the Care Quality Commission, said: “We have asked Gosh to provide further information about the concerns, which were brought to our attention by the BBC.
“We are clear that NHS trusts and all providers of health and social care must have regard for nationally recognised guidance about delivering safe care and treatment. This could include guidance from NHS England and from the British Society for Paediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes around the need for multidisciplinary team involvement in decision making prior to performing surgery on children who are intersex or have variances in sex characteristics.
“We await the response from Gosh but in the meantime if anyone has any concerns about the care they or a loved one have received, they should get in contact with us.”
The BBC said it found that there was currently no face-to-face psychological support for children and families at Gosh who have been referred in the last six months but surgery continues to be carried out.
It also claimed that operations were taking place on intersex patients at Gosh without first discussing their cases with an expert panel at the hospital. The BBC further alleged that a lack of written information for parents to take home made it difficult for them to understand the treatments they were consenting to.
Ieuan Hughes, emeritus professor of paediatrics at Cambridge University, told the BBC the failure to provide this care was against national guidance. “No surgery should be undertaken without the whole team being involved with the decision,” he said.
“Making and signed up collectively to whatever that decision was to have surgery or not to have surgery, it’s the collective decision of the team.”
Gosh said in a statement that patients diagnosed at the hospital were discussed by multidisciplinary teams and that a new specialist psychologist would be joining in the coming weeks.