A doctor in England caused “significant anxiety” by asking a Muslim patient to remove her hijab and demonstrated an “intolerance and disdain for patients”, a tribunal ruled.
Dr Keith Wolverson was reported to the General Medical Council (GMC) in 2019 and initially received the support of more 133,000 people in a petition titled Stop Dr Wolverson Getting Fired.
A Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) hearing on Monday found Dr Wolverson was “impaired by reason of misconduct” after referring to patients’ ability to speak English as “abysmal”, “extremely wanting” and “terrible”.
Over a period of four months in 2018, the doctor had written notes such as one which said: “Explained this to mother as best that one could but is it her duty to learn more English … being here for five years and not being able to explain what is wrong with her daughter is frankly not good enough.”
During the hearing, Dr Wolverson said he had asked a patient to remove her face covering at Staffordshire’s Royal Stoke University Hospital because “she was difficult to understand due to her veil or strong accent”.
But the tribunal found the patient did not have poor English, and he had been “inconsiderate” and did “not respect her dignity and privacy”.
The “impairment determination” made by the tribunal read: “The request in these circumstances did not treat (the patient) fairly and did not take account of her life choices and beliefs.
“Given the sensitivities, the tribunal concluded that the public and profession would expect that such a request from a doctor should only be made after carefully considering the specific circumstances that exist at the time and after concluding that there is a clear reason to make the request.
“In this case, Dr Wolverson made no such assessment, and he made the request because it is his general practice to do so.
“This put his interests above that of (the patient) and thus his actions were serious.
“The tribunal concluded that the public and the profession would also view this conduct as serious and deplorable.
“The tribunal therefore found that his actions in requesting that (the patient) remove her face veil in these particular circumstances did constitute serious misconduct.”
Speaking about the incident in 2019, Dr Wolverson, from Derby, told the PA news agency he had made the request “in the same way I’d ask a motorcyclist to remove a crash helmet”.
“I’m a little bit sad the country has been committed to depths such as this,” he said.
“But it takes more than this to knock me off my perch.”
Commenting on the language used by Dr Wolverson, the impairment determination continued: “In making the inappropriate notes, Dr Wolverson had treated patients unfairly, disrespectfully and in a manner that did not justify patients’ and the public’s trust in doctors.
“The tribunal considered that patients were likely to be shocked and upset to read the notes and that fellow practitioners would find Dr Wolverson’s conduct serious and deplorable.
“The tribunal also noted that this had not been a one-off entry made out of frustration.
“This was a routine way of behaving towards certain types of patients over a period of months.
“The tribunal therefore found that Dr Wolverson’s actions … amounted to serious misconduct.”
The panel is yet to make a determination on what sanction Dr Wolverson should receive.