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Local GP leader reprimanded after using racist language during BMA conference

A GP has been reprimanded by the BMA and steps down from representing his LMC after making a racist remark at a conference last month.

Dr Jim Fulton, a GP in Haddington, East Lothian, made the ‘out of character’ comment during the BMA’s special conference to approve the new Scottish GP contract in Glasgow on the 1 December.

During a debate on improving the attractiveness of general practice, Dr Fulton started a point he was making by saying ‘the n***** in the room is’ before pausing and saying ‘sorry, wrong phrase’ before continuing his point.

Later in the session, Glasgow LMC member Dr Steven Miller paused the vote and said: ‘A colleague used a deeply inappropriate and offensive term during a recent contribution this debate it might have been a slip of the tongue but it’s not OK.’

He added that such comments could not pass unchallenged. ‘We’re leaders and it’s our role to call out things like that,’ he said.

After lunch, conference chair Dr Teresa Cannavina said: ‘With regards to comments made this morning, the agenda committee wants to make it clear that it will not tolerate racist language being used during the debates.

‘In line with the BMA’s code of conduct, the committee has now reprimanded the member concerned and has raised the matter with Lothian LMC. I would like to call on him to make a full apology.’

Dr Fulton then said to the conference: ‘I’m deeply sorry for any offence caused by my use of an inappropriate word during a previous debate and I apologise wholeheartedly.’

A spokesperson for Lothian LMC said: ‘Lothian LMC finds racist language completely unacceptable. A member of Lothian LMC’s delegation at a recent conference used offensive language [but] he apologised immediately realising he had misspoken.

‘We met and he agreed that a formal apology should be made to conference. He then made a sincere and formal apology to conference. We have also decided that he will not represent Lothian LMC at future conferences.’

The LMC, which has accepted the apology, added that the language used was not typical for the GP in question.

A spokesperson said: ‘Speaking to people who know this person well, they advise me that this is totally out of character and we have accepted his sincere apology for the language used.’

There is no suggestion that Dr Fulton’s use of that language in those circumstances amounted to a criminal offence. Pulse has approached Dr Fulton for comment.

Scottish GPs have been able to vote on their new contract since LMC leaders voted in favour of key aspects at the 1 December conference. The result of the poll, which closed last week, will be discussed by Scottish BMA GP Committee members at a meeting on the 18 January.

They will then decide whether or not to move ahead with the plans, which would set Scottish GPs on a different path to the rest of the UK.

This includes direct reimbursement of practice and staff expenses, a move away from GPs owning premises and a focus on the GP as an expert medical generalist at the head of a multidisciplinary team.