Doctor who offers to pray for patients cleared of wrongdoing

Dr Richard Scott(Photo: Christian Concern)

The General Medical Council (GMC) has decided to take no action against a Christian doctor who offers to pray for patients and talks about his faith during consultations.

The decision in favour of Dr Richard Scott, 59, ends a three-month investigation that was launched by the GMC over the summer in response to a complaint lodged by the National Secular Society (NSS).

In its complaint, the NSS expressed "concern" that Dr Scott was "continuing to pray and promote Christianity during consultations in an attempt to convert patients".

The Christian Legal Centre, which supported Dr Scott, said the outcome of his case offered some reassurance for other Christian doctors and professionals in the UK, as well as clarification around how they can share their faith in the workplace without fear of losing their jobs.

In a letter to Dr Scott, the GMC said there was "no convincing evidence" that he was imposing his personal religious beliefs upon potentially vulnerable patients. 

"There is no first-hand account or complaint from any patient about Dr Scott's practice. The NSS sent an anonymous hearsay account about how Dr Scott expressed his religious beliefs to a 'highly vulnerable' patient," the GMC said. 

They added: "There is no evidence that [Dr Scott] discusses faith in situations where the patient has stated that they do not wish to discuss these matters or that he has continued to discuss faith after a patient has indicated that they do not welcome such a discussion."

The letter advised Dr Scott to document any discussions with patients involving faith, and to restrict offers of prayers to within the GMC's own guidelines on personal beliefs. 

The guidelines tell medical professionals not to share their personal beliefs with patients "in ways that exploit their vulnerability or are likely to cause them distress", and only discuss them "if a patient asks you directly about them, or indicates they would welcome such a discussion". 

Dr Scott welcomed the outcome but said that the investigation into his conduct had been "totally unnecessary".

"This complaint should never have got to this stage," 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.

"The toll placed on my family and me, as a result of one spurious complaint, was totally unnecessary. Yet it is my hope that this outcome will mean other Christian practitioners will not have to go through similar experiences."

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said the verdict meant that doctors of faith could "get on with their jobs without fear".

"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," she said. 

"The agenda of the National Secular Society to remove Christian witness from the workplace is clear. Yet this guidance from the GMC should now provide more protection, allowing doctors, like Richard, to get on with their jobs without fear.

"Dr Richard Scott is a brilliant doctor, loved and respected in his community and especially by his patients. It is because of his Christian faith that he is motivated to look after the person well beyond the consulting room."