More than 59,000 people have signed a petition backing a doctor who is under investigation for asking a Muslim patient to remove her veil.
Dr Keith Wolverson says he told the woman to take off her niqab so he could hear her describe what was wrong with her child.
He was reported to his bosses at Royal Stoke University Hospital after the patient’s husband complained she was upset by his “rude” request.
The freelance GP, who has been practising for 23 years, admits he is now ”rather fearful of the consequences” after finding out he has been reported to the General Medical Council (GMC) and will be the subject of a racial discrimination inquiry.
He said he would continue to “fight to the bitter end” in order to carry on working in the profession.
Speaking about the incident, the 52-year-old from Derby said: “I asked a lady to remove her face veil for adequate communication, in the same way I’d ask a motorcyclist to remove a crash helmet.
“When the letter came through, I was rather fearful of the consequences.
“I’m a little bit sad the country has been committed to depths such as this.
“But it takes more than this to knock me off my perch.”
Dr Wolverson said he was was “absolutely bowled over” by the petition on change.org, which has now reached over 59,800 signatures.
The creator of the petition, titled “Stop Dr Wolverson getting fired”, wrote: “I would like to get as many people as possible to sign this petition and save this man’s reputation.
“I believe he acted in the best interest of the child involved and there was no racist or religious discrimination in his actions.
“We need to ensure the General Medical Council treat this man fairly and look at all the evidence.
“Our NHS is severely understaffed and we cannot afford to lose doctors due to fabricated accusations of discrimination.”
The Doctors Association called on the GMC to issue “clear guidelines to protect both doctors and our patients”.
“It is of utmost importance that the religious wishes of our patients are respected,” a spokesperson added.
“However, evidently there are some circumstances where removal of a niqab or burka is necessary for medical assessment and treatment.”
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Dr Wolverson, who has been suspended, said he expected to face a hearing before the GMC which would decide on his future.
He added: “The trouble is, I’m a freelance doctor and if you get reported to the GMC you don’t get any offers of work.
“Yes I want to carry on, yes I will carry on, but it is academic until the inquiry is over.”
Additional reporting by Press Association