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RCGP Council members banned from debating college's response to exam racism row

Exclusive RCGP Council members have been banned from discussing at council the college’s response to the MRCGP controversy and how best to handle the ongoing legal action against the college, Pulse can reveal.

The college said it has told elected council members they cannot discuss the matter at their next meeting in February, on the basis of advice from lawyers handling the judicial review into the MRCGP exam, which is due to be heard in the High Court in April.

But one council member warned that issuing the instruction ‘doesn’t look good’ for the college and could potentially ‘alienate’ GPs who are members.

The RCGP has been embroiled in a major row for the past year over alleged racial bias in the clinical skills examination component of the MRCGP exam. The college has consistently denied that the exam is in any way discriminatory or biased, but it is facing legal action brought by the British Association for Physicians of Indian Origin over the much higher failure rates for the CSA among international and UK ethnic minority graduates, compared with white UK-trained graduates.

The BAPIO-led legal challenge, which is seeking to argue that the MRCGP is ‘unlawful’, is now being directly funded by the BMA, in a move which potentially splits the profession. A judicial review hearing is due in the High Court from 8 to 10 April.

The RCGP Council is made up of 67 elected representatives and has overall responsibility for setting the college’s strategy and making key decisions about its policy. But asked if the CSA issue would be debated at the next council meeting, an RCGP spokesperson said council members had been advised they could not discuss it.

The RCGP said in a statement: ‘College Council is an open and democratic forum in which council members can freely discuss issues and ask questions. It is only in the rarest of circumstances that matters cannot be discussed and, regretfully, because of a legal action still pending on the CSA, we have to handle the issue as advised by our lawyers and trustee board. This advice is being regularly updated and council members informed of new developments as appropriate.’ 

‘There was a detailed update paper for November Council on the history of College research and monitoring of differential performance. Council members can raise motions on any issue as long as they adhere to the motion submission process.’

But one council member told Pulse it was wrong for the council to be prevented from discussing the crisis openly and warned the decision risked ‘alienating’ both elected council members and rank-and-file GPs.

Dr Una Coales, a GP who recently returned to council as an elected representive for south London, said: ‘It just doesn’t look good for the college if elected council members are “not allowed” to discuss or raise concerns with the way the college is handling the CSA GP licensing exam controversy.’

‘To inform us on council that it is a matter left in the hands of college lawyers would seem to alienate not only elected council members but also college members who ask to debate, seek answers and mutual solutions.’

Dr Margaret McCartney, elected Council member from West Scotland, said RCGP Council should be allowed to discuss the CSA response, at least in private.

Pulse also approached other elected council members, but they were not prepared to issue any comment on the RCGP’s decision not to allow discussion at council.

Dr Chandra Kanneganti, chair of the British International Doctors Association and an observer on RCGP Council said: ‘Some discussion could have been helpful among [council] members - but given the legal situation that’s all we can say.’

Readers' comments (36)

  • I would not like my subscription being spent on all these expensive lawyers.Time for the RCGP to agree that there is definetly a racial bias otherwise its time for right minded GPs to be leaving

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  • Gagging doctors seems par for the course these days...

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  • With the college in Maureen's capable hands, I do hope that good sense prevails and that we recognise and acknowledge that many of us as college members and supporters would want the college to engage constructively with the BMA and well thought of organisations such as BAPIO and BIDA to deal with any allegations such as these.
    I suspect that our colleagues in these organisations simply want us to have the allegations investigated neutrally and in a scientific manner rather than have a slagging match or judicial reviews.
    I would strongly urge Maureen Baker to engage constructively in this process as it will show strength and resilience rather than perceptions of arrogance and denial.
    I am a due hard college member, supporter and an admirer of Maureen's abilities.
    Please do not let us down and make the college fail spectacularly if we lose the review as we shall never ever be able to get back in our feet. Furthermore over 2 decades of constructive hard work in developing the college as a powerful voice and international institution would be wasted and our credibility abroad will end up in tatters. Please engage rather than challenge!

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  • Mass withdrawal of membership by all ethnic minority doctors, and doctors from all other races who do not wish to see their membership fees spent on unnecessary litigations is best way forward.

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  • About the comment at 9.40am. This is a good idea, but make it as the GPs who does not believe the CSA is fair. There are many white CSA trainer also feel this is not a fair exam. Never know that Dr M Baker would be one of them

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  • It has been an unfair exam for many years. I am a GP and I know that many other GPs from ethnic minorities have faced discriminatory remarks during the old oral exam with comments like " Perhaps you should consider practice back in your own country" or "Why would you like to practice in the UK". This is meant to be an exam and not a job interview. At last the RCGP will have to answer some questions.

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  • don't discuss at council , So why bother to meet ? that should save a penny or two !

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  • Bias is not only limited to CSA, even in WBA, there are bias as in my own case. I am an img on 6mths extension due to end on 31/01/14, i have passed my akt [1st sitting], csa [2nd sitting] complete my cots, cbds, ooh and done my self rating since 13/12/13. Even after my initial arcp panel was shifted from 06/12 to 16/12/13 to enable my trainer do my esr, he intentionally filled his schedule to complete cots and cbds for the other gp reg who are not on extension, who are yet to do csa and who do no0t need panel and left me in the cold, i approached him, he said he was not in a hurry, i explained the implication interms of no job at end of 31/01/14 with the possible financial implication he did not he still did not bulge. i reported to deanery on 16/12/13 about my experience got no response, waited til 02/01/14 and sent a reminder still got no response and the panel was silent about me, i wrote gmc about my case who in turn contacted the deanery and then there were flurry of responses and the excuses given for not responding to my concerns include inability to access emails/bank holidays. i had a meeting on 13/01/14 with deanery representative and explained my predicament again, got a mail informing me that i still need to have the esr done by him and deanery will arrange a meeting with a 3rd party being around for the esr which i agreed to and this was on 14/01/14, since then, no date has been fixed, not sure when the esr will be, contract run out on 31/01/14. i had worked so hard to get to this stage but still no CCt, no prospect of job, the last contact after another reminder on 21/01/14 was that the meeting will be in the nearest future. as of today, i still have 1bout 18log entries yet to be read and validated, now i am confused who else to contact at this stage to get my career back on track. even with the involvement of gmc, it seems i am dealing with a cabal who will no stone unturned to frustrate other people for selfish reasons. my trainer is a big man at the deanery but i never new that some people are above the law. i thought we are all equal. i wonder if this would have happened if i am british or white. i need advise on the way forward. the only thing my trainer has done was to write on my e-portfolio that i will need further extension after the current 6mths extension when he has not even validated my log entries or do my esr for the current extension

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  • I understand the legal advice and the RCGP might win in court but they have lost many hearts and minds and that is something that needs to be discussed, particularly the handling of the issue by the previous chair- the language used in public and the attempt to stop a referenced BMA publication. Some RCGP council members are very uncomfortable about the lack of accountability of the past and need for a clear action plan to win back the confidence of many doctors, while recognising legal restraints.

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  • @11.35
    It seems your trainer has deep unresolved issues within him. He does not seem to demonstrate the professionalism as a doctor or as a trainer according to GMC good medical practice. According to what you say, Clearly he bullies you in a passive aggressive manner. If no one wants to take you serious mainstream media (TV and newspapers) may show a keen interest to hear your story. Why don’t you make some calls mate.

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