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GP cleared of praying with patients

13 December 2019

An ‘anonymous complainant’ was the only evidence

Dr Richard Scott

Dr Richard Scott

AN INVESTIGATION into whether a Christian GP had inappropriately discussed his faith with patients during consultations has been ended and no action taken.

The GP, Dr Richard Scott, who works at the Bethesda Medical Centre in Margate, Kent, was told by the General Medical Council (GMC) in June that the National Secular Society (NSS) had made a complaint that he was “continuing to pray and promote Christianity during consultations in an attempt to convert patients”.

The Christian Legal Centre, which has been supporting Dr Scott, said that the only evidence cited was from an “anonymous complainant”.

The GMC’s guidelines for good practice say that doctors must “not express personal beliefs (including political, religious and moral beliefs) to patients in ways that exploit their vulnerability or are likely to cause them distress”.

This means that GPs should talk about their personal beliefs only if a patient asks them directly, or otherwise indicates that he or she would “welcome such a discussion”.

After an investigation, however, the GMC has now decided to take no action against Dr Scott. The Christian Legal Centre said that the GMC, which regulates doctors’ conduct, has now sent the GP a letter stating that there was “no convincing evidence that Dr Scott imposes his personal religious beliefs upon potentially vulnerable patients”.

A spokesman for the GMC said that it could not comment specifically on cases that did not progress to a formal tribunal hearing.

“What we can say in general terms, however, is that our ethical guidance sets out how doctors can balance their own personal beliefs with those of their patients,” he said. “Where a complaint meets that threshold, we are obliged to investigate. We make every effort to conclude that work as quickly as possible to minimise what we know can be a stressful process for doctors and patients.”

In June, the NSS said that an “acquaintance” of an unnamed patient at the practice — described as “vulnerable” — approached it to say that they understood the patient was uncomfortable about Dr Scott’s use of prayer during consultations.

The GP was previously reprimanded by the GMC in 2012 for acting “inappropriately” and “not in patients’ best interests” when discussing his faith during consultations (News, 22 June 2012).

The chief executive of the NSS, Stephen Evans, said when making the latest complaint: “Dr Scott feels no remorse for his actions that earned him the warning in 2012, holds the GMC in contempt, and has not ceased from using his position as a doctor to evangelise.”

In January, Dr Scott spoke in a Radio 4 documentary of how he had, on occasion, led patients to convert to Christianity after praying for them in the surgery.

Bethesda Medical Centre states on its website and in the clinic that some of its doctors are Christian, but says that any patient who does not wish to discuss faith can say so.

Responding to the GMC’s decision to abandon its investigation, Dr Scott said: “It was clear from the outset that the NSS was targeting not just me and the practice, but also the freedom of Christian professionals across the UK to share their faith in the workplace.

“The toll placed on my family and me, as a result of one spurious complaint, was totally unnecessary.”

The chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, Andrea Minichiello Williams, said that the NSS was trying to make it impossible for Christians to witness in the workplace. “Dr Richard Scott is a brilliant doctor, loved and respected in his community and especially by his patients.

“It is because of his Christian faith that he is motivated to look after the person well beyond the consulting room.”

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