Today at a tribunal hearing, a Christian doctor has been vindicated again following a four-year campaign threatening his livelihood for offering to pray for and provide spiritual care to patients.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Dr Richard Scott, 62, from Margate, had been set to contest disciplinary measures and mandatory conditions imposed against him by NHS England at Ashford Tribunal Hearing Centre, Kent.
A series of investigations throughout 2019, 2020 and 2021 had seen him threatened with removal from the NHS Practitioners List if, for example, he refused to go on a three-day ‘professional boundaries’ course, at his own expense, to ‘re-set’ his approach to offering to pray with his patients.
Dr Scott had been ‘horrified’ to discover that the course which he was mandated to attend, is usually reserved for doctors who have inappropriately touched a patient or crossed sexual boundaries. When Dr Scott contested going on the course, he was told that for refusing to comply he would need to also undertake a psychological assessment.
As part of their investigation, NHS England had sent in a clinical advisor on a ‘fishing expedition’ to Dr Scott’s Bethesda Medical Practice in Thanet, Kent, to assess the role of religion in its services to patients. The adviser expanded scrutiny beyond the scope of praying for patients and concluded that Dr Scott had a case to answer.
NHS England had taken up a case against Dr Scott despite the General Medical Council (GMC) ruling twice in 2019 and 2020 that he had not breached any of its guidelines and that “discussion of faith in consultations is not prohibited.”
The case against Dr Scott since 2018 had been built upon “hearsay” complaints filed by the National Secular Society based solely on a radio 4 interview Dr Scott gave in January 2019.
Settling the case
Today, however, just before proceedings commenced at the Ashford Tribunal Hearing Centre, Kent, NHS England, agreed to settle the case.
This included NHS England lawyers agreeing that Dr Scott is free to offer to pray and to pray with patients if he does so within agreed General Medical Council guidance.
In return, Dr Scott agreed, out of good will, and with no admittance of wrong-doing, that he would attend a one-day course related to professional boundaries.
Dr Scott maintains that he has always offered prayer and spiritual support within GMC guidance and that complaints against him have been consistently engineered by secular groups and anonymous complainants.
Dr Scott, who has worked as a Doctor for 35 years, has described his professional regulators’ action towards him as a “relentless witch hunt” to force his Christian beliefs and approach out of the NHS.
‘It’s more than OK to share your faith’
Responding to the outcome, Dr Scott said: “I am relieved that NHS England has agreed to settle the case, but it never should have come to this.
“The course they tried to force me to go on was essentially aimed at sexual miscreants and fraudsters. There was nothing that I could see was relevant to me. I was outraged.
“Sadly I have seen a deep intolerance from some parts of the NHS towards Christian beliefs and a complete lack of understanding of what prayer is and how it positively impacts people’s lives.
“Imposing the course on me was always power trip with the aim of ‘humiliating and pressurising me. The toll on me and my family over the past few years has been immense and I hope the matter is now finally closed.
“I hope this outcome acts as an encouragement to other Christian professionals that it is more than OK to share your faith and that freedom is worth fighting for.”
Prayer can heal
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “We are delighted that Richard Scott has again been vindicated, and that justice has prevailed.
“Secular activists, whether campaign groups or those working within the NHS have been relentless in their pursuit of Dr Scott. It is now time for this to end.
“Dr Scott is a highly experienced NHS doctor whose life and career has been committed to serving his patients and community.
“He is loved and respected by his community which he has served for decades. His love for Jesus and dedication to his faith is also well known where he works and within the community.
“There is no evidence that Dr Scott’s practice of praying with his patients has in any way interfered with his delivery of excellent medicine – in fact, quite the opposite. He has seen many patients get set from drink and drug addictions and become active members of society through his spiritual care.
“At a time when there is widespread recognition that emotional and spiritual support play a significant role in physical healing, it has been particularly distasteful to see NHS England picking on a Christian doctor who is appropriately offering that support.
“Richard Scott is a brilliant doctor who loves Jesus and believes passionately about the positive impact prayer and hope of the Christian faith can have on someone’s life. He is respected in his community and especially by his patients.
“The sinister aspect of this case was the way in which the NHS authorities went fishing for evidence. His mere existence as an unashamed follower of the Christian faith and believer in prayer appeared to offend them. It is now a relief to Richard and his family that this case is finally settled.”
Find out more about Dr Richard Scott