Doctor who runs online gender clinic for trans kids ‘competent to give treatment’, tribunal rules
A medical tribunal found a UK doctor who ran an online clinic for trans youth was “competent to provide treatment” but failed to provide some follow-up care.
Dr Helen Webberley, founder of website Gender GP, was accused of breaching NHS guidelines by prescribing hormone therapy to trans youth as well as running the online clinic without a proper licence.
GenderGP has provided the trans community with a much needed life-line as the waiting lists at NHS gender clinics continue to climb, with thousands of trans folks waiting years for much-needed treatment. The online health and wellbeing clinic provides private trans healthcare and covers everything from gender-affirming hormone treatment to blood tests.
Webberley was accused of failing to provide good clinical care to three trans patients – aged 11, 12 and 17 – in 2016. The allegations were brought by the General Medical Council (GMC), which regulates doctors in the UK.
But a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) ruled that 83 of the allegations against Webberley were not proved, while another 36 were proved, BBC reported.
Webberley has denied the allegations against her. In a statement on GenderGP’s website, Helen Webberley described the legal battle as a “long and arduous journey” and “it is not over yet”.
“The tribunal has obviously very clearly considered all of the matters and their determinations will have far reaching benefits for the development of protocols and policies and educational materials for trans healthcare providers across the world,” Webberley said.
“I am truly grateful for all the support that I have had over the years and I am looking forward to being able to put this behind me and move on with my life.”
The MPTS concluded in a determination of facts, which was uploaded by GenderGP, that Webberley was “competent to provide treatment to transgender people and people with gender dysphoria”.
The tribunal began hearing evidence in July 2021 and believed that trans healthcare was an “evolving medical discipline at the material time” of the case. It added that the medical field is still “divided” when it comes to the “optimal approach” when caring for trans patients.
In fact, tribunal chairman Angus Macpherson described how Webberley was “regarded as being at the vanguard” of the “evolving” approach to trans healthcare. He also acknowledged that some people were “left in a state of desperation” as a result of the “immense pressure” on the NHS Gender Identity Development service (GIDS).
The MPTS found that Helen Webberley had a “special interest in gender dysphoria” and was “competent to recognise that the anxiety and depression which Patient A” – a 12-year-old trans boy – was “evincing was a reaction to his profound and lifelong gender dysphoria”.
The tribunal acknowledged that Patient A said this was “coupled with the bleak prospect of being suspended by GIDS in a peripubertal state for some four and a half years while his twin sister and peers progressed through puberty”.
“In consequence, Dr Webberley prescribed testosterone,” the document read. “The tribunal finds that Dr Webberley was under no obligation to arrange for a further psychological assessment to confirm the diagnosis of dysphoria already made.”
However, it found that Webberley had failed to provide adequate follow-up care to Patient A after the 12-year-old’s mum emailed after his testosterone prescription ran out.
The tribunal saw emails sent by the mum between August 2016 and February 2017. In one message, the mother said she had been “left devoid of guidance, advice, support, prescriptions or ability to get any tests performed, or even any correspondence”.
In later emails, she said her child had “episodes of violence” and was “suffering from chronic depression”, bringing her to break down in “tears several times”.
The MPTS said the correspondence showed that “Mrs A and Patient A” were experiencing deep “anguish” and that “Webberley did not deliver follow-up care to Patient A in respect of psychosocial monitoring, or in fact physical monitoring and laboratory testing”.
“Had she instituted a review system at the outset, she would not have been dependent upon Patient A or his mother requesting a review. If she was not going to arrange it herself, it was incumbent upon her to arrange for it to be provided by another,” the tribunal wrote.
The MPTS also found that Webberley failed to provide “adequate follow-up care to Patient B” as the doctor failed to arrange review consultations after prescribing testosterone therapy for the 17-year-old.
It found that Webberley “did not maintain an adequate record of Patient C’s cares in that entries in records” were “infrequent” and were “unclear as to who made them”.
Dr Helen Webberley was previously found guilty of providing an unregistered online medical clinic after failing to register with Healthcare Inspectorate Wales when GenderGP was operating between March 2017 and February 2018.
Webberley was handed down a hefty fine and GenderGP was also told to pay £2,000.
The next tribunal hearing in Webberley’s case is set to take place in early June.