Christian doctor targeted by secular campaign secures freedom to pray9 December 2019 Issued by: Christian Concern
A Christian doctor has been vindicated after a concerted and targeted attack against him by a secularist campaign group was thrown out by the General Medical Council (GMC). The GMC ruled that there was no evidence and that the doctor had done nothing wrong.
The outcome of this case gives reassurance to Christian doctors and professionals across the UK. It also provides guidance on how they can share their faith in the workplace without fear of losing their jobs.
Guidelines to share faith in the workplace
In June 2019, the GMC wrote to Christian GP, Dr Richard Scott, 59, that it had received “some information” from the National Secular Society (NSS) and would begin a fitness to practise investigation in to him.
The NSS, targeting Dr Scott to get him de-registered, had lodged a complaint expressing “concern” that he was “continuing to pray and promote Christianity during consultations in an attempt to convert patients”, and cited an anonymous complainant.
However, after an investigation lasting three months, the GMC concluded that there was no case to answer, stating in a letter to Dr Scott:
“There is no first-hand account or complaint from any patient about Dr Scott’s practice. The NSS sent an anonymous hearsay account about how Dr Scott expressed his religious beliefs to a ‘highly vulnerable’ patient,” and “there is no convincing evidence that Dr Scott imposes his personal religious beliefs upon potentially vulnerable patients.”
They added: “There is no evidence that [Dr Scott] discusses faith in situations where the patient has stated that they do not wish to discuss these matters or that he has continued to discuss faith after a patient has indicated that they do not welcome such a discussion.”
The GMC clarified that Dr Scott’s medical practice “states that the majority of the Partners are Christians and that this faith guides the way in which they view their work.” For the future, the GMC has advised Dr Scott to document any discussions of faith that he has with his patients and that prayer must only be offered within the guidelines of the GMC’s explanatory guidance on personal beliefs and medical practice (see notes to editors)
Highly irregular warning
In their letter to the GMC, the NSS had claimed that they were contacted “by a member of the public who was concerned because an acquaintance whom she describes as “highly vulnerable” is being treated at the practice” and claimed that the patient “does not feel able to express discomfort at the use of prayer.”
The NSS letter also cited a BBC Radio 4 interview aired in January 2019 entitled The Battles That Won Our Freedoms: 3 Freedom of Religion, claiming that Dr Scott was ignoring GMC guidelines “that preaching to patients is in direct conflict with paragraph 19 of the GMC’s supplementary guidance: Personal Beliefs and Medical Practice and paragraph 33 of Good Medical Practice.”
This NSS complaint had followed Dr Scott receiving a highly irregular warning in 2012 for sharing his faith with a patient, despite the GMC’s own Good medical practice guidance recommending that medical histories should take account of “spiritual, religious, social and cultural factors.”
Responding to the outcome, Dr Scott, who has been supported by the Christian Legal Centre, said: “This complaint should never have got to this stage. 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. Yet it is my hope that this outcome will mean other Christian practitioners will not have to go through similar experiences.”
Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre commented:
Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, commented: “The outcome of this case not only gives reassurance to Christian doctors and professionals across the UK that they can share their faith in the workplace, but also clear guidance on how they can share it without fear of losing their jobs.
“The agenda of the National Secular Society to remove Christian witness from the workplace is clear. Yet this guidance from the GMC should now provide more protection, allowing doctors, like Richard, to get on with their jobs without fear.
“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.”
Notes for editors
|GMC guidlines outlined in letter to Dr Scott:
‘We have considered the guidance in Good medical practice and the GMC explanatory guidance on Personal beliefs and medical practice in reaching our decision.
Good medical practice states:
‘48 You must treat patients fairly and with respect whatever their life choices and beliefs.’
’54 You must not express your personal beliefs (including political, religious and moral beliefs) to patients in ways that exploit their vulnerability or are likely to cause them distress.’
The explanatory guidance states:
‘19 In assessing what is of overall benefit to adult patients, you must take into account their cultural, religious or other beliefs and values.’
‘30 During a consultation, you should keep the discussion relevant to the patient’s care and treatment. If you disclose any personal information to the patient, including talking to a patient about personal beliefs, you must be very careful not to breach the professional boundary that exists between you.
31 You may talk about your own personal beliefs only if a patient asks you directly about them, or indicates they would welcome such a discussion. You must not impose your beliefs and values on patients, or cause distress by the inappropriate or insensitive expression of them.’
GMC guidelines on Good medical practice can be found here:
GMC guidelines on Personal beliefs and medical practice can be found here:
The BBC Radio 4 interview, The Battles That Won Our Freedoms: 3 Freedom of Religion can be listened to here: