A doctor who ran an unlicensed transgender clinic which gave sex-change hormones to children as young as 12 has vowed to clear her name as she’s set to face a medical tribunal.
Dr Helen Webberley, who founded online clinic Gender GP, also defended her treatment of young patients, saying the UK lags behind other countries in the care offered to children seeking gender reassignment.
The 52-year-old, who is currently barred from practising, will appear at a Medical Practitioners Service (MPTS) misconduct hearing starting on Monday.
The most serious charges concern her alleged failure to provide good clinical care to three child patients and inappropriately prescribing to two other patients.
Dr Webberley is also accused of attempting to avoid regulations after she was convicted in 2018 for illegally running Gender GP and treating 1,600 transgender patients and gender dysphoric children from her home in Wales.
A court heard she gave hormones to children as young as 12 after the youngsters were denied treatment on the NHS.
Dr Helen Webberley will face a medical tribunal on Monday accused of failing to provide good clinical care to three child patients and inappropriately prescribing to two other patients
A judge said there was a ‘clear refusal to follow the law’ while regulator Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) said she posed a risk to patient safety.
Dr Webberley says she’s waited ‘a long time’ to answer allegations after the General Medical Council (GMC) began investigating her in 2017 following complaints from NHS doctors.
Restrictions were initially placed on her practice but she was then handed a suspension in November 2018 and hasn’t worked as a doctor since.
‘It’s been incredibly frustrating,’ she said.
‘But I hope now we’ve reached the final hearing they will look at the evidence clearly and professionally and in a calm, unbiased way bearing in mind we are talking about the care of transgender people.
‘Certainly, professionally for me, I need to clear my name but also for the organisation I founded.’
Gender GP’s website says it works with an international multi-disciplinary team to provide care for trans and gender non-conforming patients.
Private treatment is available although it can collaborate with UK doctors and health providers to secure NHS funding for patients.
But the treatment of young patients, which also includes the use of puberty blockers, has proved controversial.
Pictured: Dr Helen Webberley ran a private transgender clinic from her home until 2018 when she was convicted of running it illegally
Dr Webberley admitted it was ’emotive’ issue but denied it was impossible – as some critics claim – for young children to make informed consent for treatment.
Many trans patients knew that ‘something wasn’t right’ from a very early age, she said, so it was better to treat sooner rather than later due to the onset of puberty.
‘If you look at the evidence and actually meet the young person and their family you then start to paint a different picture of these people and whether they know their own minds,’ she said.
‘It’s such an innate thing. This transgender identity is so deeply innate and it’s so painful for these children to be challenged all the time and not be believed.’
She said many young trans patients suffered mental health issues, were driven to suicide, or were placed on lengthy NHS waiting lists for treatment, so there was a ‘massive’ need internationally and in the UK for the type of services provided by Gender GP.
Dr Webberley admits to operating outside the law but says it’s ‘incredibly difficult’ for doctors in the UK to treat trans and gender non-conforming patients as there is ‘no education, qualification or accreditation’ and no guidelines to follow.
She said she briefly followed a NHS protocol on treatment but realised it was ‘harming’ patients and switched to following international guidelines instead.
‘I have always operated along with the International Guidance from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, The Endocrine Society, The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF),’ she said.
‘That’s the pathway I took but the NHS doctors didn’t like that.’ ‘
Dr Webberley and her husband Dr Michael Webberley, who was suspended in May 2019, moved online Gender GP to Malaga in Spain in May 2019.
But it’s now owned by Hong-Kong based Harland International Ltd and she works only in a non-medical advocacy role.
Its protocol – which follows international guidelines – means drugs prescribed by doctors in Europe can be dispensed in the UK allowing young people to bypass some NHS safeguards and waiting lists.
Tavistock and Portman NHS trust, which runs NHS England’s only gender identity development service for children, is challenging a landmark High Court court ruling last year that children under the age of 16 considering gender reassignment are unlikely to be mature enough to give informed consent to be prescribed puberty-blocking drugs.
Dr Webberley (pictured at court in 2018) moved Gender GP to Malaga in Spain in May 2019
The case was brought by Keira Bell, a 24-year-old woman who began taking puberty blockers when she was 16 before detransitioning and the mother of a teenage autistic girl.
Three High Court judges ruled that the doctors of teenagers under 18 may need to consult the courts for authorisation for medical intervention.
As a result of the decision, the Tavistock clinic suspended new referrals for puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for the under-16s.
But lawyers for the trust told the Court Appeal in June that the ruling meant that children with gender dysphoria were ‘treated differently from others in their age group seeking medical treatment’.
A decision on the appeal has yet to be made.
In a separate High Court case in March, a judge ruled that parents of transgender children can consent to treatment with puberty blockers on their child’s behalf without a court’s approval.