LAST month Christian Concern gleefully declared that ‘Christian doctor secures freedom to pray’.
The CC’s Andrea Minichiello Williams, said:
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 case in question centred on Kent GP Dr Richard Scott, who was accused by the National Secular Society (NSS) of breaking General Medical Council rules by engaging in prayer with an unnamed patient. In December the CC said that 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.
And it put online a video in which Scott said of the GMC investigation:
We now have a generation of young doctors who are so scared to open their mouths for Jesus in case the National Secular Society, the General Medical Council Council, NHS England or anyone else – the British Humanist Association* – complains.
But yesterday the Guardian reported that the case is by no means over, and that the GMC is reviewing its decision not to investigate Scott after the NSS challenged the ruling and submitted what it says is new evidence.
The GMC confirmed to the society that it is reviewing the decision under rule 12 of its fitness to practice procedures, which allow it to reconsider cases if new information comes to light.
The move follows comments Scott made to the media. On December 9, he told BBC Radio Kent that he would continue to initiate conversations with patients about faith, and confirmed that he had not changed his approach since receiving a warning from the council in 2012.
That warning came after he told a patient that “the devil haunts people who do not turn to Jesus”.
At the time the council said Scott’s conduct constituted “a significant departure” from the principles outlined in its professional guidance.Said Stephen Evans, above, Chief Executive of the NSS:
The General Medical Council’s decision to review Dr Richard Scott’s case is welcome. Dr Scott’s recent comments appear to make clear that he holds the GMC in contempt and considers himself above the rules it puts in place to protect patients. Being an evangelical Christian should not exempt him from the standards expected of all doctors working in the UK.
Section 30 of the GMC’s guidance on personal beliefs and medical practice states:
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.
Scott did not respond to a request for comment. But last month he told the Mail on Sunday that he discussed faith with around one in 40 patients. He insisted that he always asked for permission first. Over two decades, he said, “only about 10” had complained, with just one going to the GMC, in 2012.
Following the GMC’s original decision not to pursue the matter, he 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.
Conversion activity is exploitative and violates the trust that should exist between doctors and patients, particularly when it targets vulnerable patients. Medical regulators should take all reasonable steps to prevent it.
Tim Dieppe, Head of Public Policy at Christian Concern, of which the Christian Legal Centre is a part, said:
Dr Scott has been put through a lot of stress and anxiety from all these various complaints in what seems like a targeted campaign from the National Secular Society.
The GMC, I think, shouldn’t have even begun investigating it last time – it was clearly a spurious complaint – but were right to conclude that there is nothing to do here. I think it would be a real shame if they have decided to review it. We are confident that Richard has done nothing wrong.
* The British Humanist Association changed its name to Humanists UK in 2017.