June 8, 2022, 12:14 | Updated: June 8, 2022, 12:16 PM
A GP has been found guilty of misconduct for asking a Muslim woman to remove her veil and could be struck off the medical register.
Dr Keith Wolverson, 55, was found guilty of misconduct in the incident and for criticizing patients’ English skills in medical records by a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) hearing on Monday.
The panel has yet to make a decision on what punishment Dr. Wolverson should receive, but he faces possible suspension or removal from the medical register.
The court ruled the Derby-based doctor was ‘wrong’ in asking a patient, known as Ms Q, to remove her veil in order to ‘facilitate communication’ during a consultation.
It also found Dr Wolverson ‘impaired through misconduct’ after calling patients’ ability to speak English ‘abysmal’, ‘grossly inadequate’ and ‘terrible’ in an email to colleagues .
The Tribunal heard Ms Q make it clear to Dr Wolverson that she did not want to remove her veil because she did not feel it was necessary for the consultation and she spoke “good English”.
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Dr Wolverson was found guilty of 17 allegations of misconduct, 13 of which related to the consultation with Ms Q. He faced 28 allegations, 16 of which related to the veiling incident.
Over a period of four months in 2018, the doctor had written notes such as this which read: “I explained this to my mother as best I could, but it is her duty to learn more English…being here for five years and not being able to explain what’s wrong with your daughter is honestly not enough.”
During the hearing, Dr Wolverson argued that he asked a patient to remove her face covering at the Royal Stoke University Hospital in Staffordshire because “she was difficult to understand due to her veil or his strong accent”.
But the court found that the patient did not speak poor English, that he had been ‘inconsiderate’ and that he ‘did not respect her dignity and privacy’.
The “determination of impairment” made by the court read: “The claim in these circumstances did not address [the patient] fairly and disregarded her life choices and beliefs.
“Given the sensitivities, the Tribunal concluded that the public and the profession would expect such a request from a physician to be made only after careful consideration of the specific circumstances that exist at the time and after have concluded that there is a clear reason for making the request.
“In this case, Dr. Wolverson did not make such an assessment, and he made the request because it is his general practice to do so. “It put his interests above those of [the patient] and therefore his actions were serious.
“The Tribunal found that the public and the profession would also view this conduct as serious and deplorable.
“The Tribunal therefore concluded that her actions in requesting that (the patient) remove her veil in these particular circumstances constituted gross misconduct.”
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Speaking about the 2019 incident, Dr Wolverson, from Derby, told the PA news agency he made the request ‘in the same way that I would ask a motorcyclist to remove a crash helmet’.
He said: “I’m a little sad that the country has gone to depths like this. But it takes more than that to knock me off my perch.”
Dr Wolverson initially received the support of more than 133,000 people in a petition titled “Stop Dr Wolverson’s Firing” after he was reported to the General Medical Council (GMC) in 2019.
Commenting on the language used by Dr Wolverson, the impairment determination continued: “By taking inappropriate notes, Dr Wolverson had treated patients unfairly, disrespectfully and in a manner that did not warrant the trust of patients and of the public in doctors.
“The Tribunal considered that patients were likely to be shocked and upset to read the notes and that other practitioners would find Dr Wolverson’s conduct grave and deplorable.
“The Tribunal also noted that this was not a one-time entry made out of frustration. It was a routine way of behaving towards certain types of patients over a period of several months.
“The Tribunal therefore found that Dr Wolverson’s actions … constituted gross misconduct.”
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