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Male GPs are far more likely to be referred for poor performance than their female colleagues.

Statistics from the National Clinical Assessment Authority reveal men accounted for 86 per cent of cases involving GPs in the past three years, despite making up only 61 per cent of the GP workforce.

The figures show no signs of the gap narrowing, with women accounting for a smaller proportion of cases in the six months since April than in the previous year.

Dr Aneez Esmail, senior lecturer in general practice at Manchester University, who has researched sex and race bias in the NHS, said there was evidence to show women were 'better team players and more empathic'.

GPC member Dr Gillian Braunold said some male GPs could be more arrogant when handling complaints.

She said: 'Arrogance tends to be more a personality trait of male doctors. If the way doctors deal with complaints is inflamed by an arrogant attitude, they will come to the

authority's attention sooner.'

Dr Sue Allan, professional executive committee chair of Ealing PCT and a GP in west London, added that women doctors 'may be more careful'.

But she pointed to the fact that older GPs were more likely to be referred and more of this group were male.

Overall, referrals of GPs by PCOs in England and Wales have continued to rise. The NCAA has taken on 160 cases since April compared with 211 in the previous year.

The statistics also revealed Asian doctors were more likely to be referred.

Asian and Asian-British GPs accounted for 41 per cent of cases whereas non-white GPs only account for around 25 per cent of the profession.

Dr Shiv Pande, chair of the British International Doctors' Association and a GP in Liverpool, accused the NHS of 'blatant institutional racism'.

'Tolerance is low in PCTs for these doctors,' he said.

The NCAA said it could not control who was referred, but was 'committed to promoting fair and unbiased processes'.

By Nerys Hairon

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