“THE climate we’re in right now, the entire team is scared.”

Staff at the Sandyford sexual health clinic in Glasgow – the only place in Scotland where young people can receive gender-related care – have growing concerns about the rhetoric in the debate around trans rights and the impact it will have on services, a source told The Sunday National.

It comes after the clinic announced that it would not be accepting new young patients – with a waiting list so long that adults referred in May 2018 (and young people in May 2019) are only being offered primary appointments now, according to its own website.

READ MORE: NHSGGC says 'media and political scrutiny' hitting Sandyford services

The “spin” was that the problems had something to do with external pressure and scrutiny of the gender service for young people, a person with knowledge of the Sandyford team told The Sunday National. “But the reality of the situation is that it is just a staffing issue.”

And the picture painted of staffing levels at the Glasgow clinic is grim. Just two psychiatrists, each working one day a week, cover adult services for the whole west of Scotland. The young person’s team is soon to consist of a single person, who will work half the week and cover all of the country, The Sunday National understands.

One post in the gender team, the source said, has been advertised three times over a year without even a single applicant.

“It’s crazy. There’s just no resource and nobody there,” they said, adding that campaigns against the legitimacy of gender identity care were making the problem worse.

“Imagine if you were to sell it without even knowing what the service was,” they said.

“There’s this massive waiting list and there’s going to be loads of scrutiny on you and people are going to be actively campaigning for your service to close down and there’s 1000 newspaper articles written about your client base every week. When you put it like that, nobody is going to want to do it.”

Yesterday, the Sandyford clinic faced a protest from the Scottish Family Party. The group “symbolically brick[ed] it up” in order to show their “outrage at the way children's well-being is being sacrificed to fashionable transgender ideology”.

More mainstream political voices have also raised concerns about Sandyford.

READ MORE: Tories call for Tavistock-style probe into Sandyford gender clinic

In the wake of the clinic saying it would not take on new young person’s appointments and adult appointments would be limited, the Scottish Tories called for a full investigation into the service.

Rachael Hamilton, the party’s equalities spokesperson at Holyrood, drew parallels between the Scottish clinic and the Tavistock clinic in London, which is being closed and replaced by regional hubs after an interim report by paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass stated that a “single national provider” was not sustainable in the long-term.

Hamilton (below) said of the report:  “In the case of the Tavistock clinic, vulnerable young people were not supported before they made life changing decisions. In light of this damning evidence, the Tavistock has now been ordered to shut down, and SNP ministers cannot ignore similar issues in relation to gender identity clinics in Scotland.”

The National:

SNP MP Joanna Cherry and former Scottish Green MSP Robin Harper said in a joint statement in August: “The concerns raised about the Tavistock apply equally to the service provided by the Sandyford Young People's Clinic to children in Scotland.”

But the Sandyford source told The Sunday National that every person on the team had read Cass’s report “multiple times” and that it did not apply equally to the Scottish service.

“We’re always being compared to the Tavistock,” they said. “The spin is that we’re just the same as the Tavistock and it was shut down for all these horrible things, but the reality is the Tavistock was shut down for the same reason that we’re struggling, which is we don’t have the staff and the resource to support the people that are being referred to the service.”

They said that negative campaigning focusing disproportionately on Sandyford’s services was creating “a climate where it’s difficult to recruit people, and that’s what they want”.

“It’s a tiny percentage of the population that we work with. It’s such a small group. The amount of attention it receives is massively disproportionate to the amount of patients that we’re seeing, so of course it’s going to have an impact,” the source added.

A spokesperson from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC), which runs the Sandyford service, said: “As is the case throughout the country, services across NHSGGC – including gender services at the Sandyford Clinic – are under considerable pressure. All our staff are doing all they can to address these challenges, and we would like to thank them for their continuing commitment and professionalism.

“Gender services is a complex specialty which demands a particular set of clinical skills and other qualities from staff, and it is true that we are facing specific challenges around recruitment in some areas.

“Our recruitment teams are working hard to attract the right staff to our service, but these efforts are made more challenging by ongoing media and political scrutiny, and the additional public attention that has followed.

“We are very aware of the impact this scrutiny may have on our teams within gender services, and in other services provided by the Sandyford, and we are doing everything we can ensure staff are appropriately supported. If any member of staff is concerned in any way about the challenges they face, we would encourage them to speak to their line manager in the first instance, or to make use of the support services available internally across NHSGGC.”