A GP who was suspended after asking a Muslim woman to remove her veil has been allowed to return to work amid NHS staff shortages.
Dr Keith Wolverson, who was working as a locum at a walk-in centre at Royal Stoke University Hospital, asked a patient to take off her niqab three times as he could not hear her describing her daughter’s symptoms.
He was suspended for nine months after being found guilty of or admitting a total of 17 charges of misconduct relating to incidents between January and May 2018 while working as a locum at urgent care centres in Derby and Stoke.
Although he recently told a review hearing he “deeply regretted” the episode and had learned from his mistakes, the Medical Practitioner Tribunal Service (MPTS) decided to follow his suspension with sanctions for a further year after ruling he had not shown sufficient “insight” into his actions nor taken a course in “cultural diversity”.
The GP will now be assigned a “responsible officer” and a “workplace reporter” to monitor him, and was told he must “design a personal development plan to address… equality, diversity and inclusion with particular reference to cultural diversity”.
Dr Wolverson told the tribunal “it would be completely wrong to maintain the suspension and prohibit a doctor further from doing his duty to his patients when there are such grave shortages within the NHS currently”.
‘No repetition of misconduct’
He told the review hearing that in the years he continued practising before his suspension he had not asked any other patients to remove their veil and there had been no “repetition of his misconduct”.
Dr Wolverson had asked a Muslim woman, named as Mrs Q, to take off her niqab three times during a consultation on May 13 2018, saying he could not hear her describing her daughter’s symptoms.
She refused his initial request, saying she did not want to for religious reasons, but he then repeated it.
Her husband complained and the woman told last year’s hearing she felt “victimised and racially discriminated” against during the consultation.
The incident provoked outrage among nurses and doctors online, with a petition calling for the General Medical Council (GMC) to “treat this man fairly and look at all the evidence” gaining more than 20,000 signatures in little over a day.
The GMC, which brought the case against Dr Wolverson to the MPTS, does not have any specific guidelines on how to examine women wearing full-face veils.
Conditions on registration for further 12 months
In its new ruling, the tribunal stated: “He accepted the gravity and the findings of the Tribunal but did not accept that he was dishonest.
“The Tribunal was surprised that Dr Wolverson had not focussed any of his remediation by undertaking any courses on cultural diversity.
“He accepted the previous Tribunal’s findings were justified but qualified this by stating that he did not accept that it was his intention to be dishonest.
“The Tribunal noted that Dr Wolverson explained he has undertaken a course on insight and described how he has changed his practice in relation to patients who wear a face veil.
“However, when questioned, Dr Wolverson was unable to articulate how he has put his learning into practise.”
The tribunal ruled that Dr Wolverson had not “provided evidence of his increased insight into his actions to a sufficient level” and so his “fitness to practise remains impaired by reason of his misconduct”.
The tribunal decided not to extend his suspension but imposed conditions on his registration for a further 12 months.