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Who is Dr Helen Webberley and why is she being investigated?

As a GP with a specialist interest in sexual health, gender-related health and the medical care of minority groups, Dr Helen Webberley has been the subject of interest since she began working with the trans community in 2015.

Rather than refer her patients to a Gender Identity Clinic, with years-long waiting lists and significant logistical implications, she took it upon herself to develop her already considerable knowledge in hormone manipulation in a bid to manage their care locally. She soon discovered that there was a lack of training and guidance on the NHS for transgender healthcare, so she turned to international guidelines for the answers and adapted these to enable her to provide support to her patients in a primary care setting.

Dr Helen Webberley is the founder of GenderGP and a fierce trans advocate. She is also our company spokesperson. While she remains an integral member of the team, she has not practiced as a doctor since 2015.

 

Will GenderGP be impacted by the outcome of Dr Webberley’s hearing?

As Dr Webberley ceased all medical provision in 2017, and GenderGP changed ownership in 2019, the future of GenderGP is unaffected by the outcome of the GMC hearing. However it will be a tremendous step forward for trans healthcare in the UK if it is deemed that doctors can provide this essential care without fear of action on their medical license. We at GenderGP look forward to welcoming Dr Webberley back if her license to practice medicine is restored.

 

Will my care be affected?

If you receive care through GenderGP, this will not be affected. Dr Webberley ceased all medical provision in 2017, and GenderGP changed ownership in 2019. If you receive care through the NHS, it should also not be affected, as this hearing is in regards to Dr Webberley’s fitness to practice medicine and is not a legal judgement on the provision of trans healthcare.

However, if it is deemed that doctors can provide this essential care without fear of action on their medical license it will be a tremendous step forward for trans healthcare in the UK.

 

What if the outcome is negative, what will that mean for me?

If the outcome is negative, and Dr Webberley is placed under sanctions or erased from the register, it will not affect the individual care of any patient. GenderGP will continue to operate as normal, and the NHS will continue to provide transgender healthcare in line with current specifications.

 

I thought Dr Webberley had been struck off?

Dr Webberley has been under investigation since 2015 and no findings have been made to date, however she has not practised as a doctor during that time. The findings of the investigation will be concluded at a General Medical Council (GMC) hearing before the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) which began on July 26th, 2021.

 

Why did Dr Helen Webberley choose to help trans people?

Dr Helen has always been passionate about supporting minority groups. When she began to understand the challenges facing trans people of all ages she put her skills as a GP to work learning everything she could from international guidance and she set up GenderGP. The more discrimination she saw, the more determined she became to empower trans people to take charge of their own transition, whatever form that might take.

 

Why did her approach attract so much criticism?

The criticism and subsequent complaints into her work with trans people came from those who were responsible for NHS protocol. Many did not welcome Dr Webberley following the International models of care as it differed from their approach, and they raised concerns.

 

Why didn’t Dr Webberley just follow NHS guidelines?

NHS guidelines favour a referral system whereby patients are referred to Gender Identity Clinics with waiting lists that are many years long. They also require the patient to travel, often long distances, to their appointments. As a GP, Dr Webberley felt that the care could be safely provided in a primary care setting, removing many of the barriers that she could see trans people were facing.

 

How many allegations have been made against Dr Webberley?

The GMC investigation began four years ago. During that time the GMC has gathered a long list of allegations some of which are based on Dr Helen’s work with the trans community. The GMC has been previously criticised for attempting to find any evidence to substantiate its position against a doctor who is subject to investigation. We believe this has been a factor in Dr Webberley’s case.

 

What are the allegations relating to trans healthcare?

The main allegations relating to trans healthcare are that Dr Helen administered testosterone to a 12 year old who had previously been started on blockers by GIDS, and had been told that he could not have a male puberty induced until the age of 16. That Dr Webberley prescribed puberty blockers to an 11 year old who has started puberty but was on a long waiting list for GIDS; and that she prescribed testosterone to a 16 year old who again was on a long waiting list and had not had the support he needed from CAMHS. It is alleged that to provide this care was inappropriate and that she was not adequately qualified to do so. Dr Helen vehemently refutes these allegations.

 

Was HW convicted of running an unlicensed clinic?

Yes, however, the reason she was convicted for running an unlicensed clinic is that the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales refused her application to register her clinic, so she was unable to register it.

 

How many patients have made complaints to the GMC about HW?

No patients have made complaints about HW to the GMC. All of the allegations about her have come from doctors, many of whom are connected to GIDS or Tavistock.

 

Did Dr Helen Webberley have no experience in the area of trans healthcare before setting up her first trans clinic?

In 2015 Dr Webberley completed the RCGP e-learning module for Gender variance.

In the same year she was approached by the Welsh NHS Health Special Services Committee, to join their Gender Variance Clinical Pathway Task and Finish Group. She helped manage the consultation process and HW presented the Clinical Pathway Options to the Welsh GPs at the October 2016 Cardiff presentation meeting. As her client base of trans people grew she undertook research and her own studies in the area of transgender healthcare, during which time she found the WPATH guidelines and realised how better suited they were to the health and dignity of this patient cohort.

She joined the World Professional Association of Transgender Health, and formed relationships with trans support groups, voluntary organisations and charities. She attended workshops hosted by these organisations, talked to trans people, trans parents and trans youth. She attended the WPATH biannual meetings, and presented her work there. In 2016, she presented at a symposium her model of care which embraced the role of telemedicine in transgender care. She also went to visit an NHS Gender Identity Clinic and sat in for the day to share experiences and discuss cases.

 

When does the hearing begin?

Dr Webberley’s hearing began on July 26th.

 

How long will the hearing last?

It is anticipated to last for 55 days.

 

What is the format of the hearing?

The GMC will lay out its case against Dr Webberley and then it will call its experts to explain their findings. Once the findings have been heard, Dr Webberley will have her opportunity to defend her case and the panel will hear from experts in support of her case.

 

What is the tribunal seeking to answer specifically?

The tribunal will seek to answer the following questions:

  • Is Dr Helen Webberley a risk to patients?
  • Is Dr Helen Webberley a risk to the public image of the profession?
  • Does the conviction that Dr Webberley has for operating a service without registration mean her fitness to practice is impaired?
  • Can patients trust her?

 

Can I provide a testimonial in support of Dr Webberley?

Yes. You can offer your support here, whether you’re based in the UK or anywhere else in the world.

 

Can I make a question or a comment about the hearing?

Yes. Questions and comments about the hearing can be submitted here. If you would like to provide a testimonial or message of support for Dr Webberley, you can provide them here.

 

Can I watch the hearing?

The hearing is open to the public, and there are a limited number of spaces available to watch it in person. The MPTS may reserve the right to limit spaces or close the hearing in response to the pandemic.

Please note that children cannot be brought into the hearing.

For full information on how to access the building, as well as accessibility requirements, visit the MPTS website.

If you would like to view the hearing remotely, please email enquiries@mpts-uk.org to arrange an online viewing.

 

What can I do to show my support?

You can show your support for Dr Webberley by providing a testimonial here.

 

What are the potential outcomes of the hearing?

The tribunal decides whether:

  • The facts alleged have been found to be proven true.
  • The doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired.
  • Any action should be taken

Once they have come to these decisions, they can decide to:

  • Take no action.
  • Accept any undertakings offered by the doctor, if these are agreed with the GMC (General Medical Council).
  • Place conditions on the doctor’s registration (or remove existing conditions).
  • Suspend the doctor’s registration (or remove an existing suspension).
  • Erase the doctor’s name from the medical register (so that they can no longer practice).

They can also issue warnings, which are not sanctions and do not restrict the doctor’s practice.

We hope that the tribunal will recognise the importance of Dr Webberley’s work and that her licence to practice medicine will be restored.

 

Can I write in support of Dr Webberley if I live outside of the UK?

Yes. You can offer your support here.