Dr. Richard Scott, a Christian general physician from Margate, Kent, in southeast England, was set to challenge the country’s National Health Service (NHS) after he was told he would be barred from the NHS “National Performers List” for offering to pray with patients. This morning at the Ashford Tribunal Hearing Centre, NHS agreed to settle the case.
In 2019, Scott was forced to undergo a six-month “fitness to practice” investigation, following a complaint filed by the National Secular Society (NSS) on behalf of an anonymous patient. According to NSS, the patient was uncomfortable being offered prayer and discussing Christian faith during a consultation with Scott.
Yet Scott recalled that he “only discussed mutual faith after obtaining the patient’s permission.”
“In our conversation, I said that personally, I had found having faith in Jesus helped me and could help the patient,” he said. “At no time did the patient indicate that they were offended, or that they wanted to stop the discussion. If that had been the case, I would have immediately ended the conversation.”
Once the investigation was completed, the General Medical Council (GMC) concluded that there was no evidence and that Scott had not broken the GMC guidance in offering to pray for his patients.
However, in 2020, the GMC reopened the investigation in response to an email from the NSS claiming they had “new evidence.”
After 10 months, the GMC stated that they had found “no grounds for a fresh decision” against Scott and upheld their decision from 2019.
Despite being cleared by the GMC a second time, NHS England continued a separate inquiry and ordered Scott to attend a “professional boundaries” course, costing 1,800 euros at his own expense. Scott said he was “horrified” when he discovered that the course is usually reserved for doctors who have inappropriately touched a patient or crossed sexual boundaries.
Scott refused to take the three-day course.
“The course they tried to force me to go on was essentially aimed at sexual miscreants and fraudsters,” he explained. “There was nothing that I could see was relevant to me.
“Sadly I have seen a deep intolerance from some parts of the NHS towards Christian beliefs and a complete lack of understanding of what prayer is and how it positively impacts people’s lives.
“Imposing the course on me was always power trip with the aim of humiliating and pressurizing me.”
Following his refusal, Scott was informed that he would then need to undergo a psychological assessment to “reset”’ his approach when offering patients prayer.
Scott, with the help of Christian Legal Centre, was set to contest the NHS ruling in a hearing at Ashford Tribunal Centre this morning. But minutes before the planned hearing, NHS agreed to a settlement.
NHS lawyers agreed that Scott can offer to pray with patients if done so within agreed General Medical Council guidance. And Scott said he will attend a one-day course related to professional boundaries.
Andrea Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, celebrated the settlement:
“It is now a relief to Richard and his family that this case is finally settled,” she said. “… Secular activists, whether campaign groups or those working within the NHS have been relentless in their pursuit of Dr. Scott. … [He] is a highly experienced NHS doctor whose life and career has been committed to serving his patients and community. … There is no evidence that Dr. Scott’s practice of praying with his patients has in any way interfered with his delivery of excellent medicine—in fact, quite the opposite. He has seen many patients get set from drink and drug addictions and become active members of society through his spiritual care.
“The sinister aspect of this case was the way in which the NHS authorities went fishing for evidence,” she added. “His mere existence as an unashamed follower of the Christian faith and believer in prayer appeared to offend them.”
Scott, although relieved that NHS agreed to settle the case, is sad that the situation warranted legal action.
“I hope this outcome acts as an encouragement to other Christian professionals that it is more than OK to share your faith and that freedom is worth fighting for,” he said.
Photo: Courtesy of Christian Concern