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.
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.’