Eminent GPs have appealed to the RCGP to address the ‘continued lack of diversity and transparency’ within their College.
In a letter sent this week (21 February), Professor Aneez Esmail, Professor Sir Sam Everington, who together wrote a seminal study in 1993 on racism in the NHS, and Dr Naureen Bhatti, a GP in east London, accused the RCGP of perpetuating a ‘situation where most of the senior positions are held by white males with little evidence of change over the last few years’.
They also lambasted senior figures of the RCGP as creating ‘the impression amongst the wider membership of a College out of touch with its members with the leadership drawn from a small unrepresentative clique’.
The letter said: ‘These disparities do not happen by chance and in our view reflect a failure to recognise the importance of having a diverse organisation at all levels and the benefits that it can bring. It is within the power of the leadership of the RCGP to use existing bye laws and rules to actively encourage diversity within the leadership roles.’
Professor Esmail, Sir Sam and Dr Bhatti highlighted their letter from last summer, also on the lack of diversity in the RCGP’s leadership team and ultimately signed by 1,500 grassroots GPs, as placing ‘significant pressure’ and resulting in the ‘positive development’ of more diversity within the Council itself.
The authors highlighted issues around the college structure, including:
- Why the Council meeting is not by right open to all RCGP members and broadcast on the internet;
- Why the college doesn’t declare and publish expenses by individual name
- And why there is not a visible interest register of Council members on the website and therefore available to all members of the RCGP.
In response, RCGP Chair Professor Martin Marshall told Pulse: ‘The College takes equality, diversity and inclusion very seriously and our BAME action plan commits us to widening Black Asian and minority ethnic representation at senior levels of the RCGP.
‘The College’s governing Council comprises representatives who have been nationally elected, or appointed via their Faculty, and all College Officers are elected. Over the last decade, we have had three consecutive women Chairs, a BAME President and a BAME Vice Chair. Our current Officer line-up includes two women and two GPs from minority ethnic backgrounds.’
But Professor Marshall, who took up his tenure in 2019, admitted that there are still steps to be made. He continued: ‘We know that more needs to be done to make the College truly reflective of its membership and we are actively working to encourage more members from all backgrounds to put themselves forward for College roles. At our most recent elections, six women from BAME backgrounds were elected to all six vacant roles.
‘The RCGP was the first medical Royal College to make Council papers available in advance to its members, we also live tweet our debates and publish the minutes, as well as pre-and post-Council letters with details of all the main issues and decisions. We are committed to transparency and are looking at ways of opening up more of our processes. However, we are the UK’s largest Royal College and the logistics of holding Council meetings for 54,000 members is currently a huge challenge. It is also important that Council members are able to discuss and debate important issues appropriately and the internet is not a viable option at present.