COTROVERSIAL GP Mark Huckstep has admitted he used his Christian beliefs as a "complementary therapy" for patients and refused to refer women for abortions.
The Oxford Mail has learned Dr Huckstep, who was featured on Channel 4’s Dispatches programme earlier this month, was referred to a medical watchdog over concerns about his evangelical beliefs.
He was suspended from his practice at Wolvercote Surgery and Kendall Crescent Health Centre, in North Oxford, in August 2010, after concerns were raised over his time-keeping and record management.
Last night, NHS Oxfordshire said it had also received complaints from patients about how his religious beliefs were used in consultations.
It led to him being investigated by NHS watchdog the National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS).
Dr Huckstep, who has been a guest speaker at several churches in Oxfordshire and across the country, said he “fully acknowledged the administrative failings that led to his suspension”.
But he added: “However, issues of integrity and truth are so important that they need frank discussion, even from a doctor who has been fairly criticised on other issues.”
He said he regarded the killing of an unborn child by doctors as a “morally wrong act which also damages women emotionally and psychologically”.
In a statement, he said: “I have talked to a large number of women deeply distressed by their abortion – almost all had received little or no warning about the possible emotional consequences of the abortion (shame, guilt, self-hatred, etc) from those who were supposed to counsel them prior to the abortion.”
According to the 1967 Abortion Act, doctors are free to opt out of involvement with abortion.
He added that, as a Christian, he was certain that God existed.
He added: “Being certain of this, it would be impossible to relate to patients pretending that science could answer their deepest needs when I am fully aware it cannot.
“This was discussed at length with the PCT approximately seven years ago. We came to the agreement that my Christianity could be treated as a form of “complementary therapy” in addition to usual treatment – ie I would first treat patients according to best practice guidelines, hand them the prescription if there was one, and then ask their consent to talk with them about their lives from a broader point of view than what would be possible if one believed that science could explain our human condition adequately.
“If the patient consented, then I was free to discuss more metaphysical issues such as the meaning of their lives, their struggles with feelings of guilt, shame and meaninglessness, their fear of death, etc, and to suggest books that may help in confronting these issues.
“Such discussions were always in addition to normal treatment, if time allowed. They were not instead of normal modes of treatment.”
The county’s primary care trust NHS Oxfordshire has said the GP can return to work under strict conditions, which included undertaking a retraining programme.
He has so far decided not to return to work as a doctor.
The trust said there were four official complaints received about Dr Huckstep between 2007/08 and 2009/10 – two of which had ‘religious components’.
A spokesman added: “Between January and March 2009 the PCT received three complaints, one of which had a religious component.
“These complaints led to the PCT investigation in March 2009 that subsequently led to an NCAS referral.
“A further complaint was received by the PCT in October 2009 which had a religious component.
“This complaint was discussed with Dr Huckstep and reassurance was given by him to the PCT. However, this complaint was also passed to NCAS to inform their review and to the General Medical Council (GMC) to aid their investigation.”
Following an NCAS investigation, Dr Huckstep was ordered to meet a list of professional criteria and undergo further training. He was later suspended by the PCT following concerns raised by employees about record-keeping and administration.
The trust refused to comment on Dr Huckstep’s individual views.
A spokesman added: “The PCT has discussed with Dr Huckstep in the past about his religious beliefs but the PCT has always made it very clear that his religious convictions were not to be imposed on any patient who did not share his views.
“The PCT did not use the term complementary therapy nor feel that this term in any way reflects its views.”