A doctor who ran an unlicensed transgender clinic that gave sex-changing hormones to children as young as 12 has vowed to clear her name as she faces a medical trial.
dr. Helen Webberley, who founded the online clinic Gender GP, also defended her treatment of young patients, saying the UK is lagging behind other countries in the care provided to children seeking gender reassignment.
The 52-year-old, who is currently banned from practice, will appear at a Medical Practitioners Service (MPTS) misconduct hearing from Monday.
The most serious charges concern her alleged failure to provide proper clinical care to three child patients and inappropriate prescribing to two other patients.
dr. Webberley is also accused of attempting to circumvent regulations after she was convicted in 2018 of 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 by the NHS.
dr. Helen Webberley will appear before a medical tribunal on Monday charged with failing to provide proper clinical care to three child patients and inappropriately prescribing 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 waited ‘a long time’ to answer allegations after the General Medical Council (GMC) began investigating her in 2017 following complaints from NHS doctors.
Initially, restrictions were imposed on her practice, but she was suspended in November 2018 and has not worked as a doctor since.
“It’s incredibly frustrating,” she said.
“But I hope that now that we’ve reached the final hearing, they’ll look at the evidence clearly and professionally and in a calm, unbiased way, bearing in mind that we’re talking about caring for transgender people.
‘Certainly, professionally for me, I have to clear my name, but also for the organization I founded.’
The Gender GP website says it works with an international multidisciplinary team to provide care for trans and gender non-compliant patients.
Private treatment is available, although it can work with UK doctors and healthcare 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 an “emotional” issue, but denied that it was impossible – as some critics argue – for young children to give informed consent to treatment.
Many trans patients knew from a very early age that “something wasn’t right,” she said, so because of the onset of puberty, it was better to treat sooner rather than later.
“If you look at the evidence and actually meet the young person and his family, you get a different picture of these people and whether they know their own thoughts,” she said.
‘It’s such an innate thing. This transgender identity is so innate and it’s so painful for these children to be constantly challenged and not believed.’
She said many young trans patients had mental health problems, were driven to suicide or placed on long NHS waiting lists for treatment, so there was a ‘huge’ need internationally and in the UK for the kind of services provided by Gender GP.
dr. Webberley admits operating outside the law but says it is ‘incredibly difficult’ for UK doctors to treat trans and gender non-compliant patients as there is ‘no training, qualification or accreditation’ and no guidelines to follow.
She said she briefly followed an NHS protocol for treatment but realized it was “harming” patients and instead switched to following international guidelines.
“I’ve always worked with the International Guidance of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, The Endocrine Society, The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF),” she said.
“That’s the way I’ve been, 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 is now owned by Harland International Ltd of Hong Kong and she only works in a non-medical advocacy role.
The protocol – which follows international guidelines – means that medicines prescribed by doctors in Europe can be dispensed in the UK, allowing young people to bypass some NHS guarantees and waiting lists.
Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, which operates NHS England’s only gender identity development service for children, challenged a landmark Supreme Court ruling last year that children under 16 considering gender reassignment are unlikely to be mature enough to give informed consent to be prescribed puberty-inhibiting drugs.
dr. Webberley (pictured in court in 2018) moved the Gender GP to Malaga in Spain in May 2019
The case was brought by Keira Bell, a 24-year-old woman who started taking puberty blockers when she was 16 before coming off menopause and the mother of an autistic teenage girl.
Three Supreme Court justices ruled that doctors of teens under the age of 18 may need to consult the courts for authorization for medical intervention.
As a result of the decision, the Tavistock clinic suspended new referrals for puberty blockers and sex hormones for young people under the age of 16.
But lawyers for the trust told the Court of Appeals 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 Supreme Court case in March, a judge ruled that parents of transgender children can consent to treatment with puberty blockers on behalf of their child without court approval.