Tribunal called off in case of Christian GP offering patients ‘spiritual care’

Dr Richard Scott settled with NHS England following last-ditch talks.

Dr Richard Scott
Dr Richard Scott

The tribunal for a Christian GP who received complaints about offering “spiritual” care to his patients has been called off after a last-minute settlement with NHS England.

Dr Richard Scott, 62, is a GP at the Bethesda Medical Centre in Margate, Kent, and has received a number of complaints in the last two decades relating to offering spiritual care to some patients.

This tribunal was due as a result of complaints relating to a telephone interview Dr Scott 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.

The tribunal between Dr Scott and NHS England was set to begin in Ashford on Monday to determine whether he could still be allowed to work as an NHS doctor.

He had been asked to attend a three-day course costing £1,800 aimed at people who had been accused of sexual impropriety, which he refused, and also to undertake a psychiatric assessment.

But the tribunal has been called off following last-ditch talks between both parties.

Dr Scott will now take part in a one-day training course costing £500 relating to “professional boundaries”.

Dr Scott said: “I do try to follow the General Medical Council guidelines and if you read them correctly, they allow you and encourage you to speak to patients about religion where it’s relevant to their care.

“Full well-being is physical, mental and spiritual and it’s more than appropriate, it’s necessary for some patients to look into those existential issues in a way that standard western medicine doesn’t provide.

“Some people are desperate for help and I can give any number of examples of people I’ve helped through spiritual care – which is done on my own time and fully consented.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which backed Dr Scott’s case, said: “Dr Scott is a highly experienced 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.

“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.

“It is now a relief to Richard and his family that this case is finally settled.”

NHS England has been contacted for comment.

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