This site is intended for health professionals only

Male GPs five times more likely to be suspended than ‘risk averse’ female GPs

By Laura Passi

Male GPs are much more likely to have concerns raised about their performance that lead to their suspension than female GPs, new figures published by the National Clinical Assessment Service show.

The figures reveal that 314 male GPs and 41 female GPs have been excluded or suspended from their PCT performers list over the past decade. When adjusted to reflect the composition of the total GP workforce, the figures show male GPs are more than five times as likely to be suspended as female GPs.

The NCAS is notified of all GPs who are suspended from work by their PCT, and these are the first figures they have published that break this down by gender.

The NCAS calculated the likelihood of referral by counting the number of referrals between 2001 and 2010 and comparing this to the workforce size in 2007, when there were 19,400 male GPs and 14,000 female GPs.

The data also reveals that GPs who qualified outside of the UK but within the European Economic Area are two and a half times as likely be referred to the NCAS for concerning behaviour, compared to UK-qualified GPs. Those who qualified outside of Europe are over four times as likely to be referred, compared to their UK counterparts.

This follows concerns over PCT checks on EU doctors from outside the UK who are registered to work in the UK. Pulse revealed last year that fewer than a quarter of these doctors have been tested for their language skills and clinical competence by PCTs.

Peter Old, deputy director of the NCAS, told Pulse the stark gender differences may be due to differences in the way female GPs practise medicine.

‘There is speculation that women doctors are more risk averse, but we are just holding a mirror up to what is happening in the NHS. Because practices can't spot patterns we are in a position to.'

Mr Old also said he believed the differences in the suspension rates for GPs who qualified outside the UK were caused by ‘place of qualification and training factors at undergraduate level rather than ethnicity.'

Professor Alastair Scotland, director of NCAS, said: ‘Most doctors from outside the UK do excellent work for the NHS and the service depends a great deal on them and the skills they bring. But these statistics show clearly that there is a greater likelihood of concerns being raised in some groups than others.'

Dr Prasad Rao, a GP in Stoke-on-Trent and president of the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Division of the British International Doctors' Association, said while GPs who qualify outside of the UK are good doctors, cultural differences could mean behaviour is misunderstood, for example differences in ‘body language, subtlety of language and the way in which we express ourselves'.

Figures from the GMC also show reflect the gender divide in suspensions. In 2009, 0.01% of all female doctors were removed from the fitness to practise register compared with 0.05% of male doctors with a current registration in that year.

Male GPs more likely to be suspended by managers