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GMC survey to explore perceived unfairness towards ethnic minority doctors

The General Medical Council is surveying doctors to understand whether there is a perception of unfairness around the fitness-to-practise process, especially with regards to black and minority ethnic doctors, it announced today.  

The survey will ask whether black and minority ethnic (BME) doctors are treated unfairly when registering and when undergoing disciplinary procedures, as well as whether the revalidation process is fair, among other questions.

This follows concerns raised about the high proportion of BME doctors who face fitness-to-practise hearings and builds on the focus groups established by the GMC at the end of last year, which were exclusively revealed by Pulse.

The GMC will ask almost 7,000 doctors from all backgrounds – drawn from an anonymous sample of doctors on the register - about their perceptions of the regulator. The research - which will be undertaken by the National Centre for Social Research - will also cover doctors´ confidence in the GMC and how it protects the public.

It will explore concerns about ageism and racism and will gauge opinion on English language tests as a part of registration.

The results will help to ensure the GMC continues to apply its standards consistently and makes decisions that are fair to everyone regardless of their background, the GMC said.

The original research proposals for the focus groups, held in January this year, said: ‘Anecdotal feedback suggests that… core functions of the GMC are also perceived as conveying some degree of discrimination. For example, in some quarters, there is the belief that some doctors face a more expedient, simpler, registration process than others.

‘Given the challenges referred to above, we are committed to improving the perceptions of our work amongst these protected groups. Whilst we know that the GMC is perceived negatively in some quarters, we do not know how widely held such views are. This study will therefore address this evidence gap through establishing a robust baseline for current perceptions of the GMC amongst BME doctors.’

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: ‘As an organisation we are committed to listening and improving what we do. We know that we can be controversial at times and that we must do more to understand concerns about the work we do.

‘A year ago we held our first “Fairness” conference bringing together leaders from across healthcare. We made a number of commitments at that event including obtaining better data, which is why we are keen to hear from doctors to understand the factors that influence their perceptions of the GMC.

‘This will help us ensure that we are regulating as fairly and objectively as we can. This feedback will also to help to make sure we apply our standards consistently and address any concerns that doctors raise through the survey.’

Readers' comments (6)

  • Una Coales

    Niall Dickson announced at the annual British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin conference that BMEs were overrepresented in GMC referrals by institutions and that IMGs were more likely to receive tougher GMC sanctions. How does this affect ethnic doctors' perceptions of the FTP process? And the GMC now needs a survey to tell them what they already know?

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  • It is no surprise that the white British public is likely to be far less forgiving of BMEs than one of their own.This pack mentality is instinctual and follows the laws of Darwinian logic to promote the survival of one group over another.It is ridiculous to turn it into a blame game.

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  • It is not ridiculous if one is at the receiving end of this 'Darwinian logic' I am appalled at some of the justifications that have been used to defend the seeming discrimination black and minority ethnic (BME) doctors have faced here and in the CSA. it is truly depressing

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  • It is absolutly true. If you complain about white doctors it goes under the carpet and BME doctors heaven forbid made mountain of molehil to justofy the case. i ve got first hand experience with proof

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  • There is definitely a high amount of discrimination and that is why it has created some basis for the authorities embarrassment. Hence their attempts to address this issue.

    For those BMEs who are newcomers to this country or those who are non-BME, this might feel Darwinian or natural selection and the like; this is nothing but justification. Please wake up and look around you more carefully, with a different view. Put yourself in others shoes.

    Please have a look at the GMC website and look at the names of those who have been through disciplinary procedures. Don't you see the majority are foreign names? Is that because foreign educated doctors know less medicine or know less about the culture? I think not.

    The results of the disciplinary procedures are even more appalling. There is certainly more sympathy towards Anglo-Saxon doctors with 'minor problems' such as alcoholism or sexual intercourse with patients. But the results are 'slightly less favourable' for the BMEs; especially for the protection of the members of public and maintaining standards of GMC, and of course public confidence in the profession, because the public are more 'concerned' with what happens with the 'coloured' culprit than with the good old 'Harold'.

    I would advise any BME to be extra-careful of their housekeeping and note-taking and to have contingency plans, to even move to somewhere else, where they could be given a fair share of rights when it comes to what they look like.

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  • we all know the result unfair will be no unfairness

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