Christian GP who offers to pray with patients settles disciplinary case with NHS

(Christian Legal Centre)
The NHS tried to discipline Dr Richard Scott for offering prayer to patients. (Christian Legal Centre)

A Christian GP who offers to pray with his patients has settled a case with the NHS after they tried to impose disciplinary measures on him.

Dr Richard Scott, a GP for 35 years who practices at the Bethesda Medical Centre in Margate, Kent, was set to contest a ruling by the NHS in a hearing at Ashford Tribunal Centre this week.

But his planned appeal did not go ahead on Monday after the case was settled.

The 62-year-old has previously said he refused to undergo a three-day "maintaining professional boundaries" course and said health bosses were trying to "humiliate" him.

In 2019, the National Secular Society complained that an anonymous patient "felt discomfort at the use of prayer" by Dr Scott during a visit to the GP.

Dr Scott had also been criticised following a telephone interview he took part in on BBC Radio 4 in 2019 discussing his use of prayer in his practice.

He said he offered spiritual care to around one in 40 patients, and around 80% of people offered prayer or religious support took him up on the offer.

He was initially cleared after an investigation by the General Medical Council (GMC), but a separate inquiry by NHS England resulted in Dr Scott being ordered to go on the £1,800 course at his own expense.

The Bethesda Medical Centre in Margate, Kent, where Dr Richard Scott is a GP. (Google)

Just minutes before the planned hearing on Monday, a settlement was reached.

The Christian Legal Centre, which has supported Dr Scott, said this included NHS England lawyers agreeing that the GP can offer to pray with patients if done so within agreed General Medical Council guidance.

As part of the settlement, Dr Scott said he will attend a one-day course related to professional boundaries.

After the settlement was reached, he 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."

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.

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"His love for Jesus and dedication to his faith is also well known where he works and within the community."

The GMC has twice ruled - in 2019 and 2020 - that Dr Scott did not breach any of its guidelines.

Dr Richard Scott has settled his case with the NHS just before a planned tribunal. (PA)

A letter sent in November 2020 to Dr Scott from the GMC read: "As you may be aware, discussion of faith in consultations is not prohibited. As long as the matter is raised sensitively and with the patient’s consent, it would not be a matter suggesting impairment."

The GMC's advice for practitioners reads: "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."

Lawyers for Dr Scott said: "There is no evidence that Dr Scott’s practise of praying with his patients is an obstacle in terms of the efficient delivery of health care services."

He claimed he was ordered to take the course with the aim of "humiliating and pressurising" him.

Yahoo News UK has approached NHS England for comment.