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We should be ‘ashamed’ of inequalities in medical exam pass rates, says GMC chief

We should be ‘ashamed’ of inequalities in medical exam pass rates, says GMC chief

The chief executive of the GMC says we should be ‘ashamed’ of the lower pass rates among trainees from ethnic minority backgrounds for exams like the MRCGP.

Delivering the closing speech at Pulse Live last Wednesday, Charlie Massey called for regulatory hurdles to be lifted to allow SAS doctors to help mitigate pressures in general practice. 

When asked whether this could offer another route into general practice for GPs who have failed the MRCGP, especially since they are disproportionately international medical graduates (IMG), Mr Massey said that is something that ‘should be on the table’.

He said medicine exams comprise lots of ‘high stakes moments’ and this does not ‘generate fair outcomes for people’, which has helped create a disparity in pass rates.

Earlier this month, the GMC published data on the progression of doctors in postgraduate medical education in the UK which showed ‘inequalities persist’.

There was an 18 percentage point difference between the speciality exam pass rate, which includes the MRCGP, of UK-trained black doctors and UK-trained white doctors in 2021.

Since 2014, there has been an average difference of 26 percentage points in specialty exam pass rates between IMGs and UK qualified trainees.

In 2021, the average pass rate for all MRCGP exams among IMG trainees was just under 50%, while it was 86% for UK-trained candidates. 

In his speech last Wednesday, Mr Massey said: ‘I think in medicine we have a lot of high stakes moments that we know do not generate fair outcomes for people.

‘At the moment we have a problem in relation to that. We published some data recently about differential pass rates in terms of doctors from ethnic minority backgrounds, both UK-trained and overseas-trained.

‘And I’d say that’s also something we should be quite ashamed of.’ 

However, earlier this month a University of Lincoln study claimed ethnic minority doctors performed ‘no worse’ in GP licensing assessments than white doctors when MRSA scores and demographic factors were considered. 

In November last year the GMC launched a new hub to assist doctors experiencing racism and discrimination at work. 

That same month, the GMC admitted that a controversial case in which a GP was accused of dishonesty after saying she had been ‘promised’ a laptop ‘damaged’ efforts to build trust with doctors from minority ethnic backgrounds.

At Pulse Live, Mr Massey referenced this case as one that ‘we got wrong’, but he believes the regulator displayed ‘immediate reflection’ on the learning from this as well as a ‘heartfelt apology’. 

His speech focused on allowing SAS doctors to work in general practice, calling for the Performers List rules to be updated.

Mr Massey warned that waiting for more GPs to come and plug the workforce gap ‘risks killing the primary care model’. 

When asked whether this would help doctors who have failed the MRCGP to enter general practice via a different route, he said that is a question they would ‘need to work through’. 

He added: ‘I think it’s something that should be on the table but where it will land I couldn’t tell you at this point in time.’ 



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

John Graham Munro 30 March, 2023 3:12 pm

I can think of plenty of other things the G.M.C. should be ashamed of.

Turn out The Lights 31 March, 2023 5:40 pm

Charlie Massey has no shame remember Dr BG.

Mahesh Kamdar 1 April, 2023 11:58 am

Dear Mr. Massey
It is all a bit mess is not it?
Look at your own back yard sir. I think all of you guys have to come together and be locked up in a room until you find a solution to this perennial problem.
No good hiding behind the statement – work in progress.

Paul Attwood 1 April, 2023 10:32 pm

Yes Dr BG and the laptop saga and most recently suspension for “porky sausages” spat. I can post a link but it is easily searchable,

Dr No 2 April, 2023 8:33 pm

Bullshit. There may be perfectly valid reasons why IMGs are below par other than racism. The GMC hiding behind the race-card saves them the bother of examining this statistic more forensically. Maybe it means something important.

A Non 5 April, 2023 10:59 am


A Non 5 April, 2023 1:04 pm

..basically completely agree with Dr No. This guy is so utterly mediocre. Every response is too late and a rehash of somebody else’s ideas. He is just not up to the task. Lazy thinking, can’t be bothered or more likely just doesn’t know what it is he should be doing or indeed why he’s there.