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'No evidence' that GPs' race, sex and age affect tribunal decisions, finds GMC study

There is no association that doctors’ characteristics influence the seriousness of regulatory sanctions, new GMC research has evaluated.

The GMC peer-reviewed research, published in BMC Medicine, looked into the regulatory process of 1,049 doctors – 29% of which were GPs – referred to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) between June 2012 and May 2017.

The cross-sectional research concluded that contrary to ‘long-held beliefs’, there is no ‘systematic’ association between a doctors’ characteristics, such as age, race, sex, domestic/international primary medical qualification (PMQ), and the seriousness of the MPTS case.

However, the outcome of MPTS decisions was ‘consistently’ linked to doctors’ engagement during hearings, and those who failed to attend or did not have legal representation led to more serious outcomes.

A high court previously said negative conclusions can be drawn if doctors do not testify or give evidence in their disciplinary tribunal.

The study said that the relationship between age or location of PMQ and the seriousness of the MTPS outcome disappeared once the factor of attendance was included.

Researchers also said that the area of practice for doctors did not influence the severity of sanctions, apart from specialists, who tended to receive milder outcomes.

The study evaluated: ‘There was no systematic association between the seriousness of outcomes and the age, race, sex, domestic/international qualification, or the area of practice of physicians, except for specialists who tended to receive outcomes milder than suspension or erasure.

‘Crucially, an apparent relationship of outcomes to age or domestic/international qualification disappeared once controlling for hearing attendance. Both non-attendance and lack of legal representation were consistently related to more serious outcomes.

Researchers concluded: ‘All else equal, personal characteristics or first qualification place were unrelated to the seriousness of regulatory outcomes in the UK. Instead, engagement (attendance and legal representation), allegation type, and referral source were importantly associated to outcomes.’

Responding to the research, GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said: ‘Given the strong link between more serious outcomes and doctors not attending or having no legal representation at tribunals, we are exploring how we can encourage doctors to engage with the hearing process more.

‘We are also continuing our work to tackle the disproportionate representation of some groups of doctors in referrals to a tribunal hearing. We know that doctors who are black and minority ethnic, male, older or non-UK graduates continue to be referred more often to our processes.’

Multiple medical defence organisations responded to the study, highlighting the need for GPs to register for memberships to cover them during MPTS hearings, with one MDO saying membership should be made ‘compulsory’.

The GMC’s major Fair to Refer report evaluated that the high number of BME referrals to GMC investigations was likely to be driven by poor employer support, isolation and poor induction.

The regulator’s other commissioned report recently found that GPs’ working conditions are often ‘lonely’ and is harming relationships with patients.

Readers' comments (14)

  • “Competing interests
    All authors declare that they were employed by the GMC whilst conducting the research reported,“

    Ok...I’ll wait for some other research where the authors were not employed by the Gmc before I reach conclusions on the matter

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  • Smell that ,is it sheep's it dog no its total BS.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    Lies, damned lies, and the GMC.

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  • Almost worthy of an ignoble!

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  • Quelle feckin suprise

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  • So Black and ethnic minority doctors have only their selves to blame then! The GMC will always protect white middle class doctors.

    Dr Cox kills deliberately with potassium - oh how about a 1 year suspension and then a supervised Return to practice.

    Lucky he was white.

    The GMC has used NDA!s 11 times in the past 3 years. Currently going via the ICO to obtain details of who know what type of twisted débauchary Mr Massey and his inner sanctum has been up to

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  • ‘...we are exploring how we can encourage doctors to engage with the hearing process more’ says Charlie

    Well, that is a conundrum!
    Seeing how you have already harried doctors to take their own lives, have harried them to abandon their beloved profession, have harried them to bankruptcy, to lose their family, to lose their self esteem etc
    Indeed, what more can you do???

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  • Cobblers

    Dear me, GMC innocent says GMC.

    That would be funny if it wasn't funny and tragically so.

    On that basis all the prisoners in all the prisons are innocent too?

    "Guilty Guv? Corse not! Where's me compo?"

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  • I doubt anyone would believe a study by the GMC. Own judge and jury. Own GMC peer-reviewed research.I wonder about their board's composition.

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  • 'specialists... tended to receive outcomes milder than suspension or erasure'.
    In other words, generalists -- those who practice in the areas which are widely acknowledged to be hardest to do well are treated more harshly than those who have chosen specialist areas in which to practice. And the GMC thinks that's just and equal???

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