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Independents' Day

GMC to hold listening events after concern over treatment of ethnic minority and international doctors

Exclusive: The GMC is to hold a series of listening events with overseas doctors and those from minority ethnic groups after concern was raised over the outcome of several fitness to practise panels.

The regulator said it would run focus groups among overseas and BME doctors in December and January to gauge their perception of the GMC.

The move comes after the British International Doctors Association (BIDA) discussed 13 specific cases with the regulator amid concerns that the ethnicity of BME doctors was determining the outcome of fitness to practise panels.

The GMC said that it did not find any evidence of unfavourable treatment on the grounds of ethnicity, but that it was keen to‘understand the experiences’ of overseas and BME doctors.

The first focus group, which the GMC has commissioned to independent agency NatCen, was due to take place on 4 December in Manchester, followed by six more across the UK.

The move is a bid to counter concerns over the way it deals with performance concerns regarding international doctors.

The GMC’s research proposal for the focus groups, obtained by Pulse, said: ‘Anecdotal feedback suggests that other 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.’

Dr Umesh Prabhu, vice-president of BIDA and a consultant paediatrician, said it had been raising the issue with the GMC for the past three years, but recently had discussed 18 cases it had identified with the regulator.

He said: ‘We have been telling them our concerns about the way doctors are regulated in this country and I have given them details of some cases where even the GMC’s own decision has shocked me.

‘We gave them 13 cases where we could not find anything other than ethnicity which determined the outcome.’

He said that in the meeting the GMC had ‘acknowledged their internal processes can be improved’ and that they were ‘delighted’ with the steps the regulator was taking to resolve the issue.

GMC chair Niall Dickson said they had reviewed the 18 cases and did not find any evidence of unfavourable treatment, but that they wanted to analyse the issues more closely.

He said: ‘It is always difficult to second guess decisions that have been made following a hearing, but we could not find any evidence of adverse and/or favourable treatment on the grounds of ethnicity or race in the decisions reached in these cases.

‘This is an extremely complex issue and there is much we still do not know. We do receive a higher number of complaints about BME doctors from the NHS, the police and employers generally. We are undertaking further analysis and research, including surveys and focus groups with doctors including overseas and BME doctors to understand their experiences.’

Figures seen by Pulse reveal that the GMC has made a concerted effort this year to revamp the representation of minority ethnic groups, women and younger doctors on its fitness to practise panels.

Around 42% of the 57 new appointees to fitness to practice panels this year have been from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups. At the start of 2012, 16% of fitness to practise panel members were BME.

A spokesperson from the GMC said it was working with ‘representative organisations from across the medical profession, including BME organisations, to ensure we reached the widest possible range of doctors’.

Its most recent advertisement said it would ‘welcome applications from people with a range of backgrounds, including members of black and minority ethnic (BME) communities, women, people under the age of 45 and people with disabilities’.

The GMC set up its BME Diversity Committee three years ago, which has been meeting regularly and includes representatives from British Association Of Physicians Of Indian Origin and the British International Doctors Association among others.

Dr Kailash Chand, deputy chair of BMA Council, said: ‘For the last 20 years, I have been discussing this issue with many organisations. We know and the GMC itself knows that there is a certain perception among IMGs and BMEs, whether it is culture or education, they are definitely at a disadvantage right from the complaint ending up with the GMC.

‘I am not complaining about the GMC. We don’t know if this is a reality or perception but the issue is definitely important.’

Dr Brian Keighley, a GP in Glasgow and the chairman of the BMA’s GMC Working Party, said: ‘I know the GMC has made strenuous efforts to make their processes as fair as they can, but there is still a perception among that group of doctors that there is unfairness.

‘The problem is isolating where that unfairness is. Anything they do to further explore that issue is welcomed.’



Story updated 17 December 11:40 - following clarification from the GMC and BIDA, the number of cases presented to the GMC was 13 and not 18 as originally claimed

Readers' comments (10)

  • I heard recently that a hectoring young white woman was assigned as a GMC supervisor to a senior Asian doctor and the GMC blamed him rather than the young woman for the inevitable clashes! Cultural ignorance or indifference? The GMC must do more than pretend to be culturally aware!!

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  • Vinci Ho

    Time is different . The recent census showed the composition of the population is very different from 10 years ago . There are a lot more non Caucasians living this country.
    Organisations like GMC, RCGP(we already have a dispute) and all royal colleges have to adjust their attitudes and procedures to ensure the best interests of all ethnic groups are well looked after .
    Transparency and balance of justice are essential.
    As I said yesterday , the last thing they want to lose is credibility in a time unity of the profession is vital.......

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  • well done to the gmc for organising a listening exercise. They are trying to deal with the issues raised

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  • turkeys voting for Christmas....doctors paying gmc regulator

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  • Anyone remember the case of 2 Indian Doctors who- about 20 years ago- submitted Cv's for jobs that were identical other than the names. (Using British and Asian names.) It showed that NHS organisations were racist in thier offering of interviews.

    The GMC's Response? Not, as you might hope, to order an investigation but to charge the 2 doctors with misconduct for daring to do such a thing. I don't think the GMC ever apologised. Why not?

    I strongly suspect the GMC is Institutionally Racist. But it is also Institutionally anti- doctor:- look at the Prof Meadow case where the appeal court said the GMC's behaviour "verged on the irrational".

    The GMC is unfit for purpose and needs to be removed to the dustbin of history. However , all the time it serves the purpose of an anti-doctor government and press, and of an "I want it now" feckless general public, then nothing will change.

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  • There us no doubt a clear perception and done extent fair to say if BME Doctor in trouble with GMC or any other regulatory body ther don't get fair trial
    There no doubt BME group experienced or perceived racism

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  • Patient safety, their wellbeing and the quality of care we provide to them must be at the heart of our duty as doctors and must be the guiding principles of our professional regulation. Any regulation must be fair, equal and action taken must be proportionate and should not depend on race, ethnicity, gender or place of qualification.

    In spite of being an IMG and BME, I have been very fortunate and have done various roles in the NHS and met lots of wonderful people from all walks of life. UK is probably the fairest society and today 14% of staff and 30% of doctors working in the NHS are from BME background. BME/IMG doctors have contributed tremendously to the NHS. Most doctors work hard, provide excellent quality care to their patients. But sad reality is that medicine is a risky profession and doctors are simply human beings and will make mistakes, every surgery does have complications and every medicine has side effects. In 85% of medical errors there are systems failures and it is not simply about ‘bad doctors’. Most doctors need help, support and guidance and not blame, punishment, humiliation or discipline.

    It is also true that Colleges, Deaneries, GMC, BMA and many others institutions the key decision makers, leaders are usually from non-BME background. Many College experts, GMC FTP panel members, GMC experts, RCGP examiners are all from non-BME background and unless these things are addressed and leadership reflects ethnicity of the doctors, the institutions will continue to be accused of racism and discrimination.

    By not dealing with ‘bad doctors’ because they belong to a particular club or network NHS is not only discriminating but will continue to put patients’ lives at risk.

    I am pleased to see GMC has appointed more BME people as FTP panel members and hope other Institutions will also do the same. Irrespective of the ethnicity of the examiners, experts, leaders, panel members the most important thing is to performance manage our leaders and examiners for their fairness, equity and proportionately in their decision making and actions taken. I do hope GMC will continue to put performance management systems in place to access their experts and FTP panel members.

    I sincerely request BME/IMG doctors not to blame racism for all our problems. We must address issues like 'poor communication, poor inter-personal skills, leadership skills, team working and so on. Then there are cultural differences and hence the reason for disproportionate representation of IMG doctors in NHS disciplinary actions is rather complex and simply blaming racism is not the way to address them.

    NHS, GMC, BMA, BAPIO, BIDA and other organisations must work together and educate and train doctors in patient safety, clinical governance, quality assurance, professionalism, why doctors make mistakes and how to prevent them, patient empowerment, communication skills, leadership skills and so on. I am glad that GMC is planning to provide good induction training for all doctors more so IMGs. Our aim must be to prevent the tragedies for our patients and also for doctors and not to blame each other or anyone for failures in our systems.

    NHS is a great institutions and as doctors we must show the leadership which our patients deserve, NHS needs and profession should be showing. As doctors we must make our NHS safer and better place for everyone. True medical leadership is the key to the success of our NHS. Our patients deserve better.

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  • I congratulate GMC. They are very good at listening.

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  • Sudheer Surapaneni

    GMC should not be seen in isolation. The NHS and the Employing bodies and the Criminal Justice System where some referrals arise from deserve as much or more scrutiny.
    The complaints from the senior management or Medical managers are taken extremely seriously by the GMC Investigators, Case Examiners and the Interim Orders Panels leading to imposition of Orders on the Doctors' license without any finding of evidence.
    Once this process starts the doctor finds himself cornered and out gunned.
    If this is locum doctor , he is left in the cold with no support from any one.(Loss of earnings are not compensated).
    We all know how bad the treatment meted out to the BME doctors in their work place and employment. These bad treatment , then ends up on the GMC desk who will set in motion all the above processes. The figures suggest that complaints from the Senior colleagues in the NHS /Employers are lot more in case of BME doctors.
    The figures also suggest that at every stage of the GMC process, the BME and the Internationally qualified doctors get disproportionately worse determinations.
    The lack of family, living in a foreign country and the stress of work place uncooperation from other doctors contribute to more worsening of the Minority and International doctors' case, reaction,response and behaviour. They also get let down by the Trade Unions and the Defence Organisations more often.
    We have an emergency here.
    92 doctors died while under GMC Investigation from 2004.
    Nearly half (49%) of the doctors attending the GMC hearings in a three month period this year had no professional representation.
    All these heavily affect the Minority and the International doctors. So the GMC should first treat the harassment and victimisation of the International doctors in the NHS with as much seriousness as it deals with conduct issues. Most of the times, in these instances, the GMC issues only 'advice letters' to the perpetrator doctors.
    So the message that GMC is against racism in health is not getting through to the NHS organisations or leaders.

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  • Listening and hearing there is a difference.

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