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Margate doctor under investigation by General Medical Council after complaint about discussing God during appointments

A doctor is under investigation by the General Medical Council (GMC) after a complaint about him using his Christian faith during appointments with patients.

Dr Richard Scott, a GP at the Bethesda Medical Centre in Cliftonville, says he has practised medicine with a "spiritual angle" for 20 years to help treat people suffering with depression, anxiety or addiction.

But he is now being investigated and could lose his registration with the GMC if the complaint lodged in May is upheld.

Dr Richard Scott is under investigation by the GMC
Dr Richard Scott is under investigation by the GMC

The National Secular Society (NSS) wrote to the healthcare watchdog claiming a "highly vulnerable patient" was uneasy with the use of prayer during a consultation, The Sunday Times reported.

The complaint is understood to have originally come from someone known to the patient rather than the patient themselves, NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said.

Dr Scott, who attends St Paul's Church in Cliftonville, says he is shocked a formal investigation by the GMC is taking place rather than a discussion about the complaint.

"They are kowtowing to aggressive secularism. Public safety is what they are there for but they are suddenly turning it into a big case," Dr Scott told the newspaper.

"The NSS is obviously gunning for me and would like to see me lose my job because they don't like me.

"To be honest I don't like them but I am not gunning for them to lose their jobs."

But the GMC says it has "a duty to investigate" when questions are raised about "a doctor's ability to practise safely or threaten public confidence".

A spokesman said: "If we decide to investigate, this does not mean we have reached any kind of decision. Many of our investigations end with no action and only the most serious concerns end in suspension or erasure from the medical register."

He is also being investigated by NHS England but is allowed to continue practising during the investigation - which could last up to 12 months to complete.

The Bethesda Medical Centre in Cliftonville. Picture: Google (12945973)
The Bethesda Medical Centre in Cliftonville. Picture: Google (12945973)

The surgery website sets out the religious ethos of its doctors and explains many are "practising Christians from a variety of churches and their faith guides the way in which they view their work and responsibilities to patients and employees".

It adds: "Partners feel that the offer of talking to you on spiritual matters is of great benefit. If you do not wish this, that is your right and will not affect your medical care.

"Please tell the doctor or practice manager if you do not wish to speak on matters of faith."

Screens placed in the waiting area also inform patients about the faith doctors at the practice use in their consultations.

Dr Scott, whose wife also works at the Bethesda practice, says he offers spiritual advice to around one in 40 patients and claims around 90% accept.

He was officially warned by the GMC in 2012 for discussing faith with a patient with the warning lasting five years on his record.

Committee members said his approach at the time was a "significant departure from the principles in good medical practice".

In 2013, the GP wrote a book about his battle with cancer from perspectives of both his medical and religious beliefs.

To keep up-to-date with all the latest developments with your local hospitals and other health stories, click here.

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