31 March 2023
Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility – a day dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide.
I am a doctor and I too have faced discrimination simply due to my work with this most amazing group of people who I have seen suffer so much, so unnecessarily.
Today marks the day where I am free to practise in my profession again. The GMC proceedings against me are over, and I have been fully cleared to continue my work. The High Court judge has ordered that the case be closed with no further action.
How did this start?
In 2015, I became aware that my profession was seriously failing trans people on many levels, and I set out to do better. I set out to create a healthcare system where trans people could get the care they needed, when they needed it, and in a manner that was affirmative of their identity and understanding of the help that they needed for their own personal situation.
GenderGP started as a one-page website, an email system, a Word document and a Google Spreadsheet. Today it is a global organisation that has helped over ten thousand trans people in over 40 countries.
But both GenderGP and myself have taken a battering, literally. Our affirmative approach was not welcomed by those who seek to sustain the gate-keeping model of care. Their model reinforces the psychoanalytic assessment process, with many people having to prove their identity over years of extensive, intrusive and over-bearing questioning. My model is based on acceptance and informed consent but, I have been attacked by the media, feminists, gender critics, TERFs, healthcare professionals, public bodies and regulators alike. It has been a painful and gruelling period of my life, spanning over 7 years and having a huge impact on myself and those close to me.
Complaints were made to the General Medical Council (GMC) by my colleagues working in the field. I was warned that this would happen, because they had done it to other doctors before me, but nevertheless, I was gobsmacked when it did. Surely we were all in it for the same aim – to help trans people live their best lives and to get the best support? My responses to the complaints seemingly went unheeded, added to the file but not evaluated in any way.
In 2015, the GMC started an investigation into my fitness to practise medicine. The answer that these investigations seek to answer are twofold:
- Is the doctor’s fitness to practise medicine impaired in such a way that puts patients and the public at risk, and
- Should the GMC impose restrictions on the doctor’s practice to limit their work as a doctor?
In May 2017, the GMC stopped me from working on an interim basis, and later referred me to a Medical Practitioner’s Tribunal for a hearing that started in July 2021 and concluded in June 2022. The GMC’s case was that I should be erased from the medical register and not be able to work as a doctor again.
Although there were over a hundred allegations against me, the tribunal considered the case very carefully and determined that I was competent to provide this care.
“The Tribunal was in no doubt that Dr Webberley had immersed herself in the field of transgender healthcare to the extent that she could properly be described as a GP with special interest in gender dysphoria, both in respect of the psychosocial and the endocrine facets of this field of medical practice.”
Despite by far the majority of the allegations not being found proven, a curveball was thrown on the last day of the hearing and the tribunal panel determined that my fitness to practice was impaired on a single allegation relating to discussing the potential effects on fertility at an initial consultation with a 10 year old wanting to start blockers. They suspended me for two months to protect the public, as I had not shown any insight into the allegation that I had failed the patient in such a way that was so deplorable that no other doctor would behave in this way.
The finding was so out of the blue and bizarre that, even though this would mean almost another year of not being able to work as a doctor, I appealed this decision and the case was heard on 14 March 2023 at the Royal Court of justice, by Mr Justice Jay. His finding was as follows:
“This appeal must be allowed on the ground that the MPT’s determination on the issue of misconduct was wrong. I make an order under section 40(7)(b) of the Medical Act 1983. The Appellant’s case ends here and will not be remitted to the MPTS for redetermination.”
Today, I celebrate the news that my appeal was successful and the proceedings are over. Even after intense scrutiny of my work and over a hundred allegations, my fitness to practise medicine has not been found to be impaired, I have no restrictions on my practice and I can resume my life-saving work. The case ends today and the proceedings are over.
The stringent analysis of this case will only serve to assist other doctors wanting to provide care for their trans patients. If I can develop the skills to help this group of patients then so can they. I am simply a well-meaning, well-educated GP who was willing to learn how best to provide this care and I was brave enough to stand against the outdated NHS model of care which is evidently not fit for purpose in its current state.
I set out to show that ‘just a GP’ can attain the skills and knowledge to provide gender-affirming care to people of all ages, even to the extent of allowing a 12 year old trans boy to have his puberty at the same time as all the other kids in his class. I will never forget the day that little lad came into my consulting room back in 2016, he changed my life and I changed his. He is now a strapping 18 year old young man and I will never forget him!
Thank you to my legal team – Sunil Abeyewickreme of Gunnercooke, who has always been available for me while I have shouted, screamed, cried and nearly given up. Ian Stern KC who patiently learnt all about trans healthcare, and my approach, while preparing so diligently for this case. His professionalism and attention to detail was phenomenal. Tim Buley KC, Jamas Hodivala KC, Jac Carey KC and the other solicitors and barristers who gave me their very considered advice and supported me so well.
Thank you to the members of the community who shouted so loudly and who gave their opinions both directly to the GMC and directly to the public and of course to me privately. The difficulty I have is that if I mention one of you, then I will be bound to not be able to mention all of you and I won’t sleep for weeks for failing to acknowledge your support. But, thank you so much, you have kept me alive. You know who you are, DM me and I will send you hugs!
Thank you to the experts in my case, Dr Shumer, Dr Bouman and Dr Pasterski. You were able to show the tribunal the right way to care for trans people, and not the way that the GMC ‘experts’ were trying to persuade that it should be done.
Thank you to my patients who taught me the right way that care should be given. You taught me what it was like to be trans, what it was like to be a parent of a trans child and how you wanted your doctor to help you best. You have taught me ever such a lot and I hope that my work from now on will enable me to teach others in the same way.
Thank you to my husband and family who have been so incredibly supportive of my passion and mission to change trans healthcare, they have listened for far too many hours about my work and about my troubles. My husband carried the baton for GenderGP when I was first prevented from working and as a result faced the same attack. Sadly, we didn’t have the resources to defend his case as we did mine, and the GMC and their ‘experts’ were successful in striking him off.
Thank you to the panel at my tribunal, this was completely new territory for you and you gave this so much care and consideration which I know will only serve to help healthcare professionals to be empowered to provide better care.
Finally, thank you to GenderGP and all who work there now, and to all those who helped me set it up. You have saved many lives – you know you have – and not everybody gets that privilege in life.
It seems a long time ago that I had my first trans patient and set out to change the world for the better. There is a long way to go, but I know that equality and justice will prevail, it always does, we have seen that through history. Hold your heads up high, my trans friends, because to me on this most important day, the Transgender Day of Visibility, you are very, very visible.