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Independents' Day

GMC not to blame for greater likelihood of sanctions among UK ethnic minority GPs, says report

The GMC’s fitness-to-practise process does not discriminate against ethnic minorities, an independent report has concluded.

The study by Plymouth University researchers found no evidence of ‘unfairness or inconsistency’ towards characteristics – including age, health and ethnicity – in the GMC’s processes.

The review was commissioned by the GMC after figures – revealed by Pulse – showed black and minority ethnic doctors were twice as likely to face GMC sanctions, compared with white UK medical graduates.

However, the researchers were not able to pinpoint the direct cause for why BME doctors are 30% more likely to be referred for FTP proceedings in the first place.

The Review of decision-making in the General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise procedures, which looked at the wording and criteria of GMC decision-making guidance, interviewed staff involved in the fitness-to-practise process and reviewed 187 randomly sampled cases, said: ‘No evidence of bias or discriminatory practices was identified, either in the GMC’s guidance and criteria documentation for decision makers, or the sampled case files.

‘Whilst some parts of the guidance and criteria documentation do reference specific doctor characteristics, notably the doctor’s stage of career, their health and their cultural background, these references are either in the context of discussing factors which could genuinely impact upon a doctor’s fitness to practise or on ensuring that doctors are not disadvantaged within the FTP system.’

However, the report was not completely without criticism of the GMC, which it said could provide more clarity on the reasoning behind outcomes in some cases.

It said: ‘The findings also point to a need for greater clarity and transparency. In some instances, though the outcome decision appeared appropriate for the circumstances of the case, the rationale for it was incomplete or unclear.’

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: ‘We commissioned this research to make sure our decision-making is fair and consistent and to see what lessons we could learn to improve our procedures. Independent evaluation is essential to ensure that we remain effective and fair.

‘While the findings of this report have been positive, we accept that this will always be a controversial and sensitive area and we know there is more we can do.

He added: ‘We are also continuing our work to understand better the reasons that some groups of doctors are over-represented in our procedures, and especially why some groups of doctors are more likely to be referred by their employers.’

The GMC has been working on an image problem with BME doctors after a 2014 study found that 60% of BME and non-UK qualified doctors were under the impression that the FTP process is unfair to doctors in these groups.

In January, the GMC announced that it was to make the FTP panel more independent from investigative teams in a bid to further improve confidence among doctors.

Readers' comments (26)

  • FFS...the whole thing is a farce. The wording of their letters is awful for doctors. Guilty until proven innocent with no chance of redress. If you are found guilty and you challenge the decision, your are punished more for not having "insight". They expect you to just take what they feel is right with no course to redress. I thought we lived in country with civil laws and guilty until proven innocent with a right to appeal without discrimination? or is that just for real criminals like murderers and shipman?

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  • Plymouth University in August 2014 were instructed by Hefce to carry out an independent external review of its own governance arrangements. Plymouth University should get its own house in order before conducting a review of another organisation, namely the GMC.

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  • GMC=not fit for purpose and over inflated ego. Needs disbanding.

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  • Una Coales. Retired NHS GP.

    The exodus of UK black and ethnic minority GPs and IMGs continues to Australia, New Zealand and Canada, while the GMC and other UK Establishment institutions refuse to acknowledge subconscious bias or test their FTP panelists or examiners and actors for unconscious bias.

    Correction white UK GPs are also emigrating too. In fact most if not all grassroots GPs are fed up with this NHS culture of fear!

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  • Plymouth and university in one word is that a joke?

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  • [Comment deleted]

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  • This is rubbish. The GMC and the whole of the uk medical establishment is institutionally prejudiced.
    They still are unable after many studies to determine why BME doctors are 30% more likely to be referred to fitness to practice panels. The word is out that the UK has a glass ceiling if your from abroad or have the wrong skin colour or accent. Doctors from the rest of the world are better off trying to practice in the USA, where your skills do the talking. Forget Britain!! ITS THE THIRD WORLD OF THE WEST, a has been empire. ( this coming from a uk born bred and educated doctor who left)

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  • @ above
    If you honestly think that USA is better than the UK in terms of racism you have alot to learn:

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  • @ above India is changing it's medical system of teaching from a uk style training to that of the US. North Indian trainees are shunning the uk and trying for USMLES instead. I'm sure the poster above was referring to the perception of trainees from overseas in the USA compared to that in Britain. America has a long history of welcoming talent from all over the world - hence the high number of indians/ south Asians who work as CEO's, university deans, tech entrepreneurs and a huge number of south asian medical graduates who hold prestigious positions as hospital leads, surgeon generals etc. Uk however uses these very same people in trust grade/ staff grade / associate specialist posts and had done for decades. The comparison with the murderous racist police in the Deep South is a mere distraction here I'm afraid!

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  • We hear this all the time from every institution in the country and Plymouth University is no exception. Its the same old denial. All the BME and FMG doctors have had a huge uphill struggle to get to where they have been allowed to. Its in spite of these institutions and not because of them that these humans have achieved. There are always no specific reasons admitted for this raw deal. The bottom line is - No reason could be found but THERE DEFINITELY IS NO DISCRIMINATION ??? (How come you are so sure about the exoneration). Subconscious bias is actually Discrimination. Its how a person or an institution inherently feels. There are certainly a few good people but it takes a lot more than that to make an Institution.

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