A GP has revealed he is planning to quit medicine over an investigation by the doctors watchdog into claims he ‘discriminated’ against a Muslim woman for asking her to remove her veil.
Dr Keith Wolverson said he ‘politely’ asked the woman to take off the garment for patient safety reasons during a consultation last year because he was unable to hear her explain her sick daughter’s symptoms.
He was then ‘deeply upset’ when last week he received a letter from the General Medical Council, the professional regulator, informing him that he was subject to an inquiry over allegations of racial discrimination which could result in him being struck off.
Dr Keith Wolverson, pictured, has practised as a GP for 23 years but now plans to leave his job
Last night, Dr Wolverson, who has practised as a GP for 23 years and has an unblemished record, said regardless of the outcome of the investigation he now plans to leave his job.
He said: ‘I feel a major injustice has taken place. This is why you are waiting so long to see your GP and doctors are leaving in droves. This country will have no doctors left if we continue to treat them in this manner. I’m deeply upset.
‘A doctor’s quest to perform the very finest consultation for the safety of the patient has been misinterpreted in a duplicitous manner to suggest there has been an act of racism committed. I absolutely no longer want to be a doctor.’
Dr Wolverson told how the Muslim woman brought her daughter, aged ten or 11, to see him at a walk-in centre at Royal Stoke University Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, last June.
The doctor said he asked the woman to remove the veil as he was unable to hear her explain her sick daughter’s symptoms because of the niqab she was wearing
The mother said she was concerned the child had tonsillitis.
But the 52-year-old GP struggled to hear the mother’s account of the girl’s health problems because her speech was being obscured by her niqab – a garment worn by some Muslim women that covers the body and face apart from the eyes.
The doctor said he ‘politely’ asked the woman to remove the veil covering her face so he could be sure what she was saying.
‘I asked her, would you kindly remove your face veil please because it makes communication very difficult,’ Dr Wolverson explained. ‘Normally this issue doesn’t arise because patients automatically do so.
‘One would think that any parent would be wholly supportive and grateful that a doctor was trying to safely treat their child.’
According to Dr Wolverson, the mother complied with his request without raising any objections.
But half an hour after the consultation, her husband arrived and declared he was making a complaint about the GP’s behaviour.
‘He sat outside my consultation room and threateningly made eye contact towards me whenever I went out to fetch each patient,’ Dr Wolverson said. ‘He then made a formal complaint and I was prevented from working at the walk-in centre again.’
It has since emerged that NHS bosses sent the GMC a form outlining the complaints. It says the woman told the doctor she did not want to remove the veil on religious grounds but he refused to continue the consultation unless she did.
Dr Wolverson is now facing an inquiry but he said that, regardless of its outcome, he does not want to work as a GP anymore
It claims he was ‘rude’ and ‘gave her a dirty look’, leaving her shocked and crying. She said she felt ‘victimised and racially discriminated’ against.
Joyce Robins, from the Patient Association, said losing a doctor over the issue would be ‘criminal’. ‘A doctor needs to be sensitive to a patient’s religion but safety must always come first,’ she added.
A spokesman for The Doctors’ Association UK said: ‘It is of utmost importance that the religious wishes of our patients are respected. However, evidently there are some circumstances where removal of a niqab or burka is necessary for medical assessment and treatment.
‘The GMC should consider issuing clear guidelines to protect both doctors and our patients.’
Human rights campaigner Aisha Ali-Khan tweeted: ‘I don’t believe [a] doctor should be prosecuted for doing his job *but* he should have asked for a female third party to help, or asked patient to write down her medical complaints.’