GenderGP Founder Dr Helen Webberley has been under GMC investigation since 2016. In July this year, she faces the final hearing. We asked her to share her thoughts and fears in the lead up to the event. We are also inviting patients and stakeholders to submit a testimonial in support of the work of Dr Helen and GenderGP. If you would like to make your voice heard you can do so here:
I am a UK trained GP with a specialist interest in sexual health and the access of minority groups to effective healthcare.
Over the years I have developed a passion, which has evolved into a life mission, to help trans people to be free from discrimination in healthcare, to empower them to take charge of their medical transition and the subsequent path on which that leads them.
When I examined the current worldwide provision of care to this group, I saw unnecessary suffering and I looked for solutions. I studied many clinical models and identified – and refined – those bits that best suited the patients’ needs. I understood that trans people should be able to access the care that was right for them, when they needed it, without fear of being dismissed or having to face unnecessary barriers, prejudice or discrimination.
My care protocol seemed to be a novel one within the UK, which has for many years favoured what has been described as a ‘gate-keeping’ approach by members of the trans community. There are hoops which patients have to go through in order to undergo medical transition, and I was hearing that many of these felt unnecessary and were often very challenging to the patient. My approach to trans healthcare more closely matched services provided in the Netherlands and the USA, and put the patient at the centre of the decision-making process.
In 2016, the clinicians in the UK who were not in favour of my approach, raised concerns with the GMC who then opened a formal investigation. The concerns were deemed so serious that I was prevented from working while the investigation was carried out. In 2017, the GMC was given 18 months to draw its conclusions, but that deadline came and went. We are now four years down the line and I have not practised medicine in all that time. Part of me dreads the hearing, part of me can’t wait for this ordeal to be over.
The complaints made against me were serious, they included the claim that I had potentially harmed a 12 year old trans boy, that I had acted outside of my competence and that I had gone against NHS guidelines. These are not accusations that could be ignored, and the GMC was right to investigate, I just wish they could have listened to my explanations.
My NHS employers were informed of the serious allegations, and I was permanently removed from being able to work as an NHS GP in the UK. The Healthcare Inspectorate Wales was informed and felt that the allegations meant I was not fit to be a Registered Manager of a healthcare service and so I was prosecuted for operating a service that was pending registration. It felt like I was in a vortex, being judged from every angle, with nobody listening to me or my patients, and what we had to say.
At the same time that my work with trans people was getting attention, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) was drawing up new guidance for online pharmacy services. Two companies that I was working with were inspected and, although they had previously satisfied the necessary standards, in line with the new, more strict guidelines, they failed. Once again my name came up and my professionalism was brought into question.
Looking at the long list of allegations against me, which was kick-started by my work with trans people, it is clear that the GMC has included items which have nothing to do with my work with the community. I can’t help but wonder at the driving force behind this added level of scrutiny…
The question is what is the truth. Did that 12 year old, who is now 17, suffer harm or did he flourish as a result of my intervention? What competencies should a doctor have to care for trans patients, are special qualifications available, or required? Is it obligatory to follow the NHS protocols for care in the UK?
During the investigation, both sides have sought opinion from experts in the field, from the patients and doctors involved in the complaints made by the NHS gender consultants, and from the patients themselves. The reports and findings differ – a reflection of the continuing debate on the right way forward for the medical care of transgender patients. There is no doubt that this is a contentious area of healthcare, opinions are divided, emotions run high.
The Tribunal will hear from experts in the field, from those who raised the complaints, and from those who were involved in the initial concerns raised by the NHS doctors
It is well-known that GMC investigations are stressful, but nobody ever prepared me for how terrible it would be and the impact it would have on my work life, personal life, finances and wellbeing. If I was Dean of a Medical School, I would add it to the student curriculum. I was taught how to break bad news to my patients, how to deal with angry relatives, how to address sensitive medical issues, we had a lot of training on that. However, there’s no preparation for the feeling of terror that comes over you when the GMC Investigation envelope arrives on your doormat.
So this brings us bang up to date.
Based on the findings of the investigation, the GMC has referred my case to a Tribunal. At this Tribunal, all of the facts will be examined and, for the first time, evaluated to find the truth. They will seek to answer a set of clearly defined questions:
- Was the care I gave in the best interests of the patients?
- Am I a risk to patients?
- Am I a risk to the public image of the profession?
- Does the conviction I have for operating a service without registration mean that my fitness to practice is impaired?
- Does the conviction I have for operating a service without registration mean that patients can no longer trust me?
The hearing is listed to run for 55 days, starting on 26 July 2021. First the GMC will lay out its case against me and then it will call on their experts to explain their findings. Then it will be my turn to explain why I didn’t follow the NHS model of care and what I have to say about the other allegations that the GMC have found along the way. This will include why I didn’t close GenderGP when the HIW had refused my application to register.
I will keep you posted as things unfold. I have no doubt that there will be tears and emotions will run high, but all I want is a fair hearing, the truth and a positive result for the future of gender-affirming care.
If you have been positively impacted by the care provided by Dr Helen Webberley or GenderGP, the service she founded, and you want to make your voice heard, you can submit your testimonial to the MPTS.
It is rare to read an article written about Dr Helen Webberley that does not mention her controversial work with the ‘12 year old’ to whom she prescribed gender affirming hormones, and for which she is currently under investigation by the GMC.
Dear Ms Appleby, I was surprised to see my name appear as such a large part of the reporting of your tribunal proceedings, it seems you have long had thoughts about my approach to trans healthcare, but you never thought to discuss these with me directly.
Tomorrow I face sentencing as a result of my work with transgender and non binary people. This means I will have a criminal record. My GMC registration, which I fought so hard to achieve and which has defined me as a person all of my adult life, hangs in the balance.
I was stunned at the outcome of the hearing held in August which reached its conclusion today (03.12.18). I began providing private healthcare to the trans and non binary community because there was a desperate need and there was no such NHS provision within Wales.
Since news about the legal case against Dr Helen Webberley was reported in the media, the love and words of support for her and the service GenderGP offers has been overwhelming.
On this episode of the GenderGP podcast, Marianne and Helen are joined by the mum of a trans child. She shares her story of the challenges they’ve faced, the journey they’ve been on together, and the brave child at the heart of it.