This legal case was brought against me by the GMC. It is quite scary to write or read this sentence and very scary to see it published on the Internet for years to come.
‘In the Medical Practitioners Tribunal – The General Medical Council versus Dr Helen Webberley’
The proceedings commenced when the GMC opened an investigation into concerns received by Professor Hindmarsh that were raised by Professor Butler, both consultants at the University College Hospital London. The formal investigation started in March 2017.
The matter was referred to an Interim Orders Panel in May 2017 and the GMC were given 18 months to conclude their investigation, while temporarily limiting my ability to practice medicine and to continue the care of my transgender patients.
Fast (slow) forward some years and the case was opened on 26 July 2021. The hearing is a formal process where there is a ‘prosecution’ and a ‘defence’. The GMC are alleging that I have acted outside of Good Medical Practice in accordance with the Medical Act 1983 and that I am not fit to practice as a doctor. I am defending that position, stating that I acted in the best interests of my patients, and I was professionally able to provide that care.
First, the GMC laid out their case against me, supporting the list of allegations that they have compiled that may show that I have under-performed as a doctor, and may be at risk to patients or the public confidence in the profession.
They first listen to their witnesses of fact – those who knew the patients, the GPs and hospital consultants. They then invited experts such as Dr Dean, Dr Klink, Dr Kierans to give their expert opinion. They referred to the medical literature, both guidelines and published research.
Then my legal representative, Mr Ian Stern QC, laid out my defence, again asking those who were involved – one of the patients themselves and his mother, and a psychologist who assisted in the care of another one of the patients. Following that we heard from more experts, those who have been ‘instructed’ by the defence team to give expertise and knowledge that may assist the Tribunal.
Today, 29 September 2021, sees the end of evidence in the case being heard. We have heard from everyone who can assist the Tribunal in making their decisions. The final step is for both barristers to ‘sum up’ their case, to make their final submissions, and summarise the points that may confirm or refute the allegations against me. This is due to take place on Monday and Tuesday next week.
Following that, the Tribunal will take some time to determine whether the individual allegations are found to have been proved or not. Not an overall win or lose, but each and every allegation needs an individual decision, has it been found proved or not?
The key questions the Panel will have to answer are:
- Did I have a duty to act in a particular way?
- If I did have a duty, did I act in that way?
- If I didn’t act in that way, is there a valid reason for me not doing so?
The case is scheduled to finish on October 15, that is the last day that this Panel has been booked to sit, and the legal teams have arranged to be available for this case. It is very much hoped that at least the end of this first stage of the hearing process will be complete by that date. However, that may not be the case, and we may have to return to this in another time slot.
Following this first stage, if any of the allegations are found proved, the next stage is to decide whether or not any of the allegations that are found proved do in fact mean that my fitness to practice as a doctor in the UK is impaired. Obviously some allegations will be felt to be more serious than others, and one of the allegations against me that is automatically found proved is my conviction, because that has already been determined by another court.
The Panel will have to decide whether my fitness to practice medicine in the UK is impaired due to any of the allegations that have been found proved. It may be proved that I failed to do something that I should have done, but does that mean that I am impaired going forward, in my ability to be a safe doctor?
Following the ‘impairment’ stage, the Tribunal must then make a final ‘determination’, with the following options:
- No further action – I am able to return to medical practice
- Issue a warning – on how I might conduct or perform as a doctor
- Agree undertakings – the GMC and myself would agree limitations on my practice
- Impose conditions on my registration – limit my abilities to carry out medical duties
- Suspend my registration – stop me from working for a period of time and then review again at the end of that time
- Erase my name from the register – remove my ability to be a doctor altogether
We have heard from many people involved in the presentation and decision-making in this case, on how much they have learnt about gender incongruence. I remain grateful to all those people who have taken the time to learn and listen and to consider the difficulties faced by trans people when accessing healthcare, and the correct approach to this patient cohort.