Christian doctor secures freedom to pray

10 December 2019

Christian doctor, Dr Richard Scott, has finally been vindicated after a concerted and targeted attack against him by a secularist campaign group was thrown out by the General Medical Council (GMC).

Back in June, the National Secular Society (NSS) registered “concern” with the GMC that the GP was “continuing to pray and promote Christianity during consultations in an attempt to convert patients.”

However, the GMC has ruled that there was no evidence and that Richard had done nothing wrong.

Complaint lodged by NSS

In June 2019, the GMC wrote to Richard to inform him that it has received some ‘information’ from the NSS and would begin a fitness to practise investigation into him. It stated that it had “identified some areas of good medical practice that have been called into question” and needed to “find out more information to see if this is correct and, if so, whether your fitness to practise medicine is potentially impaired.”

Targeting Richard to get him de-registered, the NSS had lodged the complaint citing an anonymous complainant.

Hearsay complaint

However, after an investigation which lasted three months, the GMC finally concluded that there was no case to answer, stating in another letter to Richard that, “There is no first-hand account of 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 also 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.

Highly irregular warning

As well as citing an anonymous complaint, the NSS letter cited also cited a BBC Radio 4 interview aired in January 2019 entitled The Battles That Won Our Freedoms: 3 Freedom of Religion, claiming that Richard 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.”

The NSS complaint had followed a highly irregular warning from the GMC issued to Richard in 2012 for sharing his faith with a patient at the end of a private consultation.

Free to share faith in the workplace

The outcome of Richard’s 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.

Responding to the outcome, Richard, who has been supported by the Christian Legal Centre, commented, “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:

“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.”

Watch Richard respond to the ruling:

Find out more about Dr Richard Scott
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