Helen Webberley, a doctor who specialised as a Gender GP and was suspended following a complaint has been cleared by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) allowing her to continue with her work treating this very vulnerable section of society.
As of today (21st March 2018) GenderGP, Dr. Helen Webberley, has had restrictions lifted allowing her to treat transgender patients, following a successful review of her case by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS). The review, which recognised Dr. Webberley as a specialised and highly experienced doctor in the field of treating transgender patients, and specifically in her work younger patients, means that she can resume her work, with immediate effect, while the ongoing GMC investigation draws to its conclusion later this year.
The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service runs hearings for doctors whose fitness to practise is called into question by the GMC. In May 2017, the MPTS imposed a restriction on Dr. Webberley’s treatment of transgender patients, following complaints from doctors at the Paediatric Endocrine Unit, University College Hospital London, the UK’s only NHS clinic offering medical treatment to patients under the age of 17.
The GMC investigation, which is due to conclude in September, came in response to Dr. Webberley’s treatment of a 12-year-old transgender child. In 2016, on weighing up the risks and benefits of introducing treatment at a younger age, Dr. Webberley, prescribed gender affirming hormones to allow the child to progress into puberty along with their peers. In the absence of published NHS guidance on the treatment of transgender youth, Dr. Webberley operates according to a model of ‘informed consent’ in line with published International Guidance.
The Endocrine Society Guidelines (which can be read here) which were revised in 2017 acknowledge that, ‘there may be compelling reasons to initiate sex hormone treatment prior to the age of 16 years in some adolescents with GD/ gender incongruence.’ In this case, Dr. Webberley took what she describes as the ‘unusual but necessary step’ in response to the patient’s significant and long-standing gender dysphoria and ongoing distress at the lack of availability of this treatment on the NHS.
She explained: “It is right and proper that the GMC should investigate complaints made against me, as patient wellbeing is the most important factor. However, the lack of complaints from patients, together with the body of evidence I have provided outlining the very high standards of care to which I adhere, was sufficient for the MPTS to lift the restrictions placed on me and which prevented me from treating transgender patients while the GMC investigation is underway.
“The MPTS took into consideration all of the new information available and the considerable support sent into the GMC from families, patients and voluntary sector members, who recognise the urgent need within the transgender community. Transgender patients face discrimination and barriers at every turn, it has long been my position that access to healthcare should not be one such barrier.”
In 2016, the Women and Equalities Committee report on Transgender Equality concluded that the transgender community is being let down by the NHS. The report states that: “We recognise that there are legitimate concerns among service-users and their families about the clinical protocols which the clinic operates regarding access to puberty-blockers and cross-sex hormones. Failing to intervene in this way, or unnecessarily delaying such intervention, clearly has the potential to lead to seriously damaging consequences for very vulnerable young people, including the risk of self-harm and attempted suicide.”
Dr. Webberley continued: “In recent months we have seen subtle shifts by the NHS in an attempt to address some of the concerns outlined in the report from the Women and Equalities Committee. As recently as January, NHS England issued a Specialist Services Circular (available here) outlining in no uncertain terms that GPs can and should be working with specialist private services to treat transgender patients. The aim is to help reduce the extensive waiting lists and prevent self-medicating which can lead to patient harm. As the only private service of this kind, GenderGP welcomes such clarity and support for GPs who should absolutely be managing more straightforward cases.
“Together with my multidisciplinary team, which includes a team of gender-specialist psychotherapists, counsellors and a highly qualified hospital consultant, I have always operated according to the highest standards of care. I believe that the opportunities afforded by modern technology mean we can do more for gender variant patients and to a better standard, than was ever possible in the past. I am absolutely elated to have had the restrictions on my work with transgender patients lifted and I look forward to getting back to work and to the successful conclusion of the GMC investigation later this year.”
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