GP who prescribed puberty blockers to children can practise medicine again
A GP whose clinic has prescribed puberty blockers to children as young as nine is allowed to practise medicine again after the High Court quashed her misconduct ruling.
Helen Webberley, founder of the GenderGP website, an online clinic for transgender patients, was found to have committed serious misconduct by a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) panel in June 2022.
She was also issued with a two-month suspension after being accused of failing to alert one of her teenage patients to the impact of puberty blockers on fertility.
However, after Dr Webberley staged an appeal, arguing that the tribunal had made errors, a High Court judge in London agreed and concluded that the panel’s determination was “wrong”. As a result, her appeal was granted and her suspension was quashed.
This means that Dr Webberley is now fully registered with a licence to practise and can treat patients.
‘Panel’s thinking was wrong’
Following the hearing, she said she was celebrating a return to her “life-saving work”.
Mr Justice Jay published his written conclusions online on Friday saying that the MPTS panel had been dealing with a “case of the utmost complexity and sensitivity”, but that its “analysis of the issue of serious misconduct” was “wrong”.
“The [panel's] thinking was confused, clearly wrong in places, and it omitted reference to important evidence,” he said, adding: “This appeal must be allowed on the ground that the [panel’s] determination on the issue of misconduct was wrong.”
Peter Mant, representing the General Medical Council (GMC), which argued that her case for appeal should be thrown out, had outlined the background to the case at the hearing – telling the judge that allegations against Dr Webberley concerned her treatment of “three transgender children or adolescents and various other matters”.
However, the court heard that the sanction related to one patient, referred to as Patient C – a teenager “assigned female at birth” who identified as male.
Mr Mant told the court that the reason why Dr Webberley received a suspension “concerned failure to provide good clinical care to a transgender child (Patient C) in not discussing the risks before commencing treatment with puberty blockers”.
“The tribunal found that suspension was necessary to protect the public as the appellant did not have insight into her failings,” he said.
'No wider issues about administering puberty blockers'
Mr Justice Jay said he had “concerns” about “certain aspects” of Dr Webberley’s “practice” in relation to Patient C - including a “failure to have a face-to-face consultation on the issue of fertility”.
However, he added: “The sole focus of this appeal has been the quality of the appellant's clinical practice in relation to one patient, Patient C.
“This appeal does not raise any wider issues about the wisdom or otherwise of administering puberty blockers to the younger age group who wish to undergo interventions for gender reassignment with full parental agreement.”
He said Dr Webberley’s case “ends here” and would not be remitted to a tribunal panel for redetermination.
‘I am a well-meaning GP’
In a statement on her website, Dr Helen Webberley thanked her supporters and said she had faced “discrimination” because of her work.
“Today marks the day where I am free to practise in my profession again,” she said. “The GMC proceedings against me are over, and I have been fully cleared to continue my work. The High Court judge has ordered that the case be closed with no further action.
“I am simply a well-meaning, well-educated GP who was willing to learn how best to provide this care and I was brave enough to stand against the outdated NHS model of care which is evidently not fit for purpose in its current state.
“It seems a long time ago that I had my first trans patient and set out to change the world for the better. There is a long way to go, but I know that equality and justice will prevail, it always does, we have seen that through history.”
The General Medical Council (GMC) said that her record on the medical register will now be updated on its website.
Dr Webberley worked as a GP in south Wales, in areas including: Monmouthshire, Blaina, Blaenau Gwent, and Abergavenny, before launching her online business.
In 2018 she was convicted of running an independent medical agency without being registered.
In May last year the MPTS imposed its most severe sanction on Dr Webberley’s husband and fellow GP, Michael, with whom she ran GenderGP, by striking him from the medical register.
He was found to be a “reckless” doctor who wrongly prescribed puberty blockers to a transgender nine-year-old child after a 10-minute chat on Skype. His treatment of 24 patients was deemed a “catalogue of failings” between February 2017 and June 2019, a tribunal found.