GMC statement in response to coverage of the case involving Dr Wolverson
On whether we are investigating
Out of fairness we never confirm whether we are investigating a doctor, unless their practice has been restricted while we investigate. Dr Keith Wolverson (4328696) is currently registered with a licence to practise and there are no restrictions on his record.
We receive about 8,000 complaints a year. The current legislation means that we have to look into every one to see if the concern may raise a question about a doctor’s fitness to practise, but we would only refer cases to a hearing at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service if the allegations were sufficiently serious to suggest the doctor’s practice may be putting patients at risk.
On our guidance
Our guidance, Good Medical Practice, says:
32. You must give patients the information they want or need to know in a way they can understand. You should make sure that arrangements are made, wherever possible, to meet patients’ language and communication needs.
46. You must be polite and considerate.
47. You must treat patients as individuals and respect their dignity and privacy.
48. You must treat patients fairly and with respect whatever their life choices and beliefs.
This means we would expect doctors to treat patients’ beliefs and their choice of religious dress with respect. They should consider the potential for distress, discomfort and feelings of vulnerability if patients are asked to expose any part of their body that they wish to conceal, without a clear clinical reason for being asked to do so. Doctors should explore other methods for ensuring good communication. If having exhausted all possible alternative communication approaches, the doctor believes they cannot provide safe care without seeing a woman’s face, the doctor could sensitively explore whether she would be willing to remove her veil. However, if she refuses to do so – or if it is obvious the situation is causing her distress – the doctor will need to continue with other channels of communication.
Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, said:
‘Our guidance makes clear that we expect doctors to treat patients’ beliefs and choice of religious dress with respect. If having exhausted all possible alternative communication approaches a doctor believes they cannot provide safe care without seeing a woman’s face, they can sensitively explore whether she would be willing to remove her face covering. Should this cause her distress the doctor will need to continue with other channels of communication.’
If a doctor follows this guidance and treats patients politely, honestly and with sensitivity, then they have nothing to fear from being referred to the GMC.
‘The full facts of this case have not been aired, nor should they be until the issue has been examined fully and fairly. Doctors and patients have a right to expect that we carry out investigations in an even-handed way, so we will not be commenting on the specifics of the case referred to us by Dr Wolverson’s employer.
‘Employers only refer cases to the GMC where the conduct or behaviour of a doctor raises a serious concern around future care of patients.’
- 22nd May 2019