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Most ethnic minority doctors think fitness-to-practise proceedings are unfair

More than half of BME and non-UK qualified doctors believe that the GMC’s fitness-to-practise process is unfair to doctors in these groups, a major review commissioned by the GMC itself has revealed.

The study concluded that 60% of BME doctors thought that non-UK qualified doctors or BME doctors are more likely to receive an unfair outcome from fitness-to-practise investigations than other doctors. This compared with 30% of white doctors who said it was unfair to BME and non-UK qualified doctors.

The percentage of doctors who were ‘very confident’ in the way they are regulated by the GMC on the whole was low for all groups, but slightly higher for BME doctors (22%) than white doctors (16%).

The report, which covered of 3,500 medics and was conducted between August 2013 and November 2013, comes as part of efforts being made by the GMC to improve its reputation among black and minority ethnic doctors, which has suffered as a result of the high proportion of non-white doctors facing fitness-to-practise panels.

It found that there were problems with its perception in terms of fitness-to-practice panels, but there were also some positive results for the regulator.

The report, carried our by NatCen Social Research, said: ‘The majority of doctors were confident in the way that they are regulated by the GMC; 18% of all doctors were very confident and a further 61% were fairly confident; 17%of doctors said they were not very confident; and 4% said that they were not at all confident in the way the GMC regulates doctors.’

‘There was little difference in the proportions of men and women who were very confident in the GMC, but levels of confidence in the GMC varied with ethnicity. BME doctors showed the most confidence; 22% were very confident, compared with 16% of white doctors, and 13% of doctors who did not disclose their ethnicity in response to this question in the survey.’

The study was focused on doctors’ perceptions of the fairness of the GMC, with the researchers using focus groups and a quantitative survey. They looked at views and perceptions across four key areas: general views of the GMC; registration; revalidation and fitness to practise.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: ‘It is reassuring that the vast majority of doctors, from all backgrounds, have confidence in what we do, but it is clear we have more to do. Our role must always be to put patients first but to achieve that we need to work closely with doctors and it is vital that, regardless of where they trained, their ethnicity or their background, each of them trusts us to operate fairly at all times and in the best interests of patient safety.’

‘We may never be popular but we play a fundamental role in doctors’ professional lives, and, as the report suggests, we must not only be fair, but be seen to be fair.’

‘This is a complex area, and we are committed to encouraging greater transparency.’

Readers' comments (12)

  • But they would say that wouldn't they?

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  • "It is reassuring that the vast majority of doctors, from all backgrounds, have confidence in what we do"

    This statement is misleading and selectively ignores findings from the GMCs own survey: "However, fewer doctors overall thought revalidation was of value to them personally (51%) or was of value for patient safety (51%)" "Around one in four doctors thought that the GMC investigates concerns fairly for all doctors – similar proportions of White and BME doctors thought this (27% and 28% respectively). Non-UK qualified doctors were more likely to think this (29%)."

    To quote Pulse: "96 doctors have died while facing a fitness-to-practise investigation since 2004." Presumably some of these doctors did not have confidence in the GMCs work.

    Fortunately our leaders have finally woken up to what many in the medical profession have known for some time, to quote Claire Gerada,“The current system has created fear and paradoxically may actually harm patients. Doctors aren’t willing to admit when something is going wrong, because the chances of them being suspended or of having to go through a GMC process would be very high." “Doctors are assumed guilty until proved otherwise, and the process they go through can take years, leaving doctors traumatised and unable to progress their careers or, even worse, unable to work. For doctors with mental health problems the punitive and unpredictable system drives secrets underground.”

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  • Doctors confident in their work should have nothing to fear but it is a fact that many BME doctors cannot speak clear English, the accents are too strong so are not understandable and they speak too fast to be understood so no matter how good their skills may be, if the patient cannot understand them, they are in the wrong job.

    My concern is about the claim s of the high numbers of doctors with criminal records for sexual abuse still allowed to practice as GP's. Fitness to practice comes hand in hand with 'safe to practice' and anyone that does get convicted should be struck off with no second chance! Not a week goes by when yet another case is reported.

    GP bashing is rife and whilst we want the best doctors we need to know they are up to the task in hand.

    I don't care what my GP's origins are as long as I can understand him / her and they treat me with respect .. which most certainly has not always been the case ... including some white UK doctors!!

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  • Took Early Retirement

    I have no confidence in the GMC to do anything properly. They haven't told me whether I am revalidated or not, despite my having done all the necessary hoops. It expires in 2 weeks or so.
    I shall just carry on doing what I normally do. They are incompetent.

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  • I think it is telling that very few Drs from any ethnic background think that the GMC is very good at regulating us. However Drs opinions will I suspect be ignored in keeping with pretty much everything else regulatory or political that applies to us.

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  • Anonymous | Other healthcare professional | 31 May 2014 12:42pm.
    Probably written by a white HCA who just about managed to scrape through primary school and never heard of “glass houses”.
    The first para has systematically dismantled English grammar and syntax.
    In the second, the "GP's," lots of them, celebrate the catastrophe of the apostrophe.
    A masterly silencing clause in the third, "…with respect ... which most certainly has not always been the case ... " to put Shakespeare’s King Lear to shame… "That all the world shall...I will do such things..."

    I wonder if this blue-eyed literary giant can offer some English lessons to us, benighted foreigners, with the emphasis on deciphering Glaswegian, Brummie and Yorkie accents.

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  • Vinci Ho

    (1) You wonder how much this 'phenonmenon' is influenced by arguments against the current processes of appraisal and revalidation. The former has lost some of its original meanings and become a tick box exercise . This may have supported why even less white doctors are 'very confident' .(16%)
    (2) GMC needs to be aware that the fallacy of efficiency saving will inevitably have detrimental effects on how well doctors can practise in NHS e.g.cutting down hospital admissions can easily backfire and cause harm. The system itself has become a shackle
    (3) I totally agree that communication is key . The fundamentals of history and examination are based on 'understandings' between patient and doctor . Hence, one can argue telephone consultation is not practically safe if the phone line reception is poor or e-mailing does not offer anything for reading body languages and physical examination. Advance in technology is only good to some extent but assuming it can replace traditional techniques in practising medicine is a landslide fallacy.
    (4) At least , ND said GMC must not only be fair and seen to be fair. That means GMC must take these self generated figures very, very seriously. Of course, one is always tempted to compare this with the CSA situation of RCGP. The aim must be to 'help' rather than 'batter'.
    (5) Last but never ever the least , 'presumed innocent' , guilty until proven with the prosecuting party to prove somebody guilty rather than the one being charged to prove oneself innocent , is the fundamental principle of Common Law . This makes us a society different from those autocratic systems where 'presumed guilty' is the common practice .

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  • All animals are equal just some are more equal than others
    Funny how history teaches us nothing and never will

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  • This comment has been deleted

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  • Anonymous | GP Partner | 01 June 2014 9:39am

    If you are as pedantic in relation to your professional practice as you are in relation to the grammar of others, we are truly blessed with an outstanding practitioner.

    Let us hope that your post is recognised for the genius it represents, rather than it being perceived as a pettifogging rant by someone who has completely missed the point of the article and related comments, to defend the indefensible, as the public so often sees doctors trying to do.

    My English grammar is probably sub-par but I think you will get the general drift...

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