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GMC to ask why BME doctors face more complaints than white colleagues

The GMC has announced the launch of its review into why black and minority ethnic doctors are more likely to face complaints from employers than their white colleagues.

Chief executive Charlie Massey used a speech at the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) conference this weekend to announce the review, which will be led by two experts in leadership diversity.

Speaking to Pulse, Mr Massey said the work would look at ‘elements of conscious and unconscious bias’ and ‘workplace cultures’.

He said it would also look at ‘whether there is an under-representation of other doctors’ in fitness-to-practice investigations.

Mr Massey said: ‘Some of it is also about whether we are good enough at understanding our data, which doctors are most at risk of being complained about and how could our analysis help us to find what interventions we could take that might stop that from happening in the first place.’

The review is being led by Roger Kline, a research fellow at Middlesex University Business School, who has previously carried out NHS research revealing a lack of BME doctors at the highest levels in the NHS.

It will be co-led by Dr Doyin Atewologun, a faculty member at Queen Mary University of London’s School of Business and Management, specialising in work psychology, diversity and leadership.

The latest state of medical education and practice GMC report found that BME GPs are 20% more likely to face a patient complaint and 30% more likely to be investigated by the GMC.

But Mr Massey said: ‘We’ve audited our processes. We audit them on a regular basis to make sure that our own processes aren’t building in a level of discrimination.

‘All of those audits have always found that we have been not discriminatory in the way in which we managed our processes.

He added: ‘But we do know that there is an overrepresentation of BME doctors that have been complained about and we want to know more about what is driving this, as well as whether there is an under representation of other doctors.

‘That is why we are intensifying our efforts to understand better this issue through more detailed research, analysis and advice.'

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a GP in north-west London, said: ‘This is an important area and it is positive that the GMC is commissioning this work.

‘The BMA believes that we must address and tackle all aspects affecting BME doctors in the NHS from differential levels of attainment and increased levels of referrals for disciplinary and performance issues, to concerns regarding bullying and harassment, and unequal levels of achievement and career progression.

Dr Ramesh Mehta, president of BAPIO, told Pulse: 'The GMC has had several reviews and research projects on the issue in the past with no useful outcome.

'BAPIO will keep a close watch on the progress and the recommendations of this review.'

The GMC faced huge criticism in recent months from the medical profession for going to the High Court in order to strike off Nigerian-born Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba, who was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter.

Mr Kline’s previous research addressed the ‘snowy peaks’ of the NHS, with two fifths of London’s NHS trust boards holding no BME members.

Readers' comments (16)

  • I hope Mr Massey look at his data and stop blaming the doctors who are victims and producing more rules and regulations and adding to the appraisals. How is he going to educate some of these racist patients? The solution is not just about hitting doctors. Patients need to take responsibility too.

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  • Inherent implicit bias amongst most, outright racism amongst others? Reform the complaints process, as it's unlikely you're going to be able to reform the hearts and minds of the general public.

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  • Ned Diddly Diddly

    Chief executive Charlie Massey used a speech at the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) conference this weekend to announce the review, which will be led by two experts in leadership diversity.

    What did BAPIO have to say about that?
    Was there question and answer session?

    Getting a complaint can be be a patient issue or could be a downright malicious troublemaking complaint...

    What the GMC needs to look at is how complaints are dealt with once they receive them...
    There is a perception that for like for like scenarios .. the GMC outcomes are a lot worse for BME professional

    How about anonymous case processing..
    with no ethnicity data?

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  • There are some issued here.
    The race relations' agency's definition reads:
    BME – Black and Minority Ethnic is the terminology used in the UK to describe people of non-white descent.
    First, why is it "black" put separately? Why not "brown" and minority ethnic? Are people classified as "black" happy to be singled out?
    Second, Are Mediterranean doctors included? (North Africa, Middle East, Southern Europe)
    Third, Central and Western Europe doctors are classified as "white" but there are several examples showing that they also suffer discrimination. Why are they excluded from protection?
    I do hope that PULSE will be brave enough to discuss the matter openly, otherwise doctors who do not belong officially to BEM are discriminated against - in the name of... "tackling discrimination"!





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  • Ned Diddly Diddly

    But Mr Massey said: ‘We’ve audited our processes. We audit them on a regular basis to make sure that our own processes aren’t building in a level of discrimination.

    How does a potentially racist organisation
    self audit it's own potentially racist processes?

    And is it right for them to get another potentially racist organisation to audit
    for them...

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  • Ned Diddly Diddly

    The review is being led by Roger Kline, a research fellow at Middlesex University Business School, who has previously carried out NHS research revealing a lack of BME doctors at the highest levels in the NHS.

    It would be interesting to see the ethnic mix of the GMC Members and higher echelons..

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  • Jmd

    This is nothing new. It is the public perception of foreign looking doctors albeit trained in UK, a racial bias. I have seen where BME Drs had been singled out despite issues with all doctors if the practice and there are cases where family complained but no further action taken by the family despite of seriousness of the case...,forget about institutional racism, there general racism though practiced subtly....I wonder if all complaints reaching the GP practice are centrally lodged (away from the insensitive GMC) locally and reviewed by say the LMC committee nod may find the content of the complaint will be if equal meAsure between the indigenous vs BME

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  • MyBad

    Complaints are generated by patients. They are a mixed bag and some of them are racist. This needs to be explicitly taken into account during the investigation process. I agree with sceptic above - racism takes many forms, often it’s a reflex bias against anyone who appears ‘foreign’ and isn’t nessessarily just about the colour of your skin, I hope this is taken into account in any review. On a personal note as a white person who considered themselves fairly open and non racist, when I married someone brown from a different racial group I became aware there’s a lot more racism out there than I previously believed. It’s easy as a white person to be shielded from a lot of it, but casual low grade bias lurks in places you wouldn’t suspect, and comes form people that might surprise you. It’s evident in all groups, as far as I can see, and can perfectly easily come from a someone identifying as from a minority group just as much as from the white majority. It’s a human flaw. I hope it’s the mark of a civilised society that these issues can be sensibly and openly addressed and steps can to taken to counteract any tendency to unfair bias. There is an obvious problem here. If a group of supposedly educated professions can’t fix it it would be rather disappointing.

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  • MyBad

    I suspect that even if you stripped out all ethnic data from the complaint system and let the GMC process roll with no-one being aware of the background of the Dr you’d still find more BME Drs were found at fault. The reason being that I suspect BME Drs are more likely to have been complained about in the first place.

    Take two identical Drs, identical in every way except for their accent or the colour of their skin. Both Drs are lacking in exactly the same way. Both are rude and rushed and rub the patient up the wrong way. As a pure statistical fact because of the make up of the population the patient has about 7-8/10 probability of being white. Two identical Drs, same error, only the colour of their skin or their accent to distinguish them. I’d suggest the white Dr has a better chance of getting away with it than the non white one. Why? Because it’s more likely that the patient with find something about them that they can identify with, they might remind them of their auntie Margret, or their grumpy grandfather, and statistically there’re more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. The non white Dr doesn’t have this to fall back on, what’s more the patient might be overly racist, or just simply unable to match them to a comfortable reassuring positive stereotype. There in lies the problem, both Drs were crap, only the unfortunate BME Dr isn’t given the benefit of the doubt with the same frequency.

    Unless this is explicitly taken into account, masking of the ethnicity of the Dr to the GMC wont work. It won’t work because the majority of the population will identify with what they know and mistrust what they don’t ...it’s sad, it’s structural societal racism and probably present in most societies but it’s a reflection of human nature.

    This needs to be adjusted for in the assessment process.

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  • It will all be OK. Mr Massey to the rescue with his 'cunning plan'. He will resolve the apparent bias by pursuing more non-BME doctors?🍾

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