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Independents' Day

GMC to probe race bias in fitness to practise cases

The GMC has launched an investigation after its latest fitness-to-practice statistics have revealed that nearly two thirds of the 54 doctors struck off last year were trained overseas.

The figures also show that the 35 foreign-trained doctors erased from the register in 2006 was three times greater than in the year before (2005). They have prompted fears that institutional racism may be driving the complaints.

The GMC has launched research to try to find out the reasons for why doctors from abroad have run into these difficulties more often than those who graduated in the UK.

A spokeswoman for the GMC said there seemed no explanation for the pattern. 'That's why we need the research to find out the reasons for this.'

The research, which will take about a year to complete, will focus on the competence of doctors from overseas and whether they are the victims of institutional racism in the NHS.

But the GMC spokeswoman said: 'The figures haven't been broken down into hospital doctors and GPs. We just don't have that information to hand and it would take too long to break it down.'

However, she said, she hoped that future tables of data would include information as ethnicity and nationality, by getting doctors to supply such details on forms.

The BMA fears that "institutional racism" has played a part in the disproportionate number of number of overseas doctors appearing before disciplinary panels.

The chair of the association's international committee Dr Edwin Borman said: 'It's such a serious matter that it's absolutely essential that we do find out if that's the case.'

He said: 'It's been recognised for almost a decade now that doctors who have qualified abroad are referred to the GMC's fitness-to-practice procedures in a disproportionately high percentage.'

Dr Borman said doctors from abroad might be used to working in a different way to the UK-trained GPs who practised a 'partnership-approach' to medical decision-making – a difference which may have played its part in referrals to the GMC.

'That's not an excuse for the NHS as a whole not to take this issue very seriously indeed and getting to the bottom of it. Hopefully, the GMC-commissioned research will provide a more detailed view of the subject,' he said.

He said it was important for the BMA and NHS organisations to stress the positive contribution made by doctors from abroad.

The GMC figures show that 303 of the 5,000 cases dealt with by the GMC last year (206) resulted in fitness-to-practise hearings. Of the 54 struck off, 35 had trained outside the UK.

The offences ranged from dishonesty, inadequate levels of care and sexual misconduct.

GMC to investigate why more overseas trained doctors are being struck off GMC to investigate why more overseas trained doctors are being struck off

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