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CQC to meet BME doctor representatives amid allegations of ‘unconscious bias’

EXCLUSIVE The CQC will meet with the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) before Christmas to discuss concerns over inspector bias against BME single-handed GPs, Pulse has learned.

BAPIO said it had been contacted by ‘extremely worried’ members regarding ‘heavy-handed’ CQC inspectors turning up with ‘pre-conceived ideas’ to single-handed GP practices led by BME doctors.

The CQC has denied allegations that inspections are discriminatory against practices of a certain size or those led by BME doctors. It did admit that single-handed practices in general were more likely to be rated inadequate but referred to its annual State of Care report finding that this was because they ‘are more likely to work in professional isolation, resulting in a lack of communication and engagement with staff and patients, and an environment that is not open and transparent’.

But BAPIO president Dr Ramesh Mehta told Pulse: ‘BAPIO is concerned about the way CQC inspectors are treating single-handed GP practices.

‘Since the inception of the NHS, international medical graduates have worked in inner-city areas and distant places where no local graduate wanted to go…

‘[However] extremely worried members have been contacting BAPIO as the news of heavy-handed CQC inspections is spreading fast.’

He claimed that the CQC acts like ‘Big Brother’ by turning up and ‘demanding facilities and standards without ensuring that the required support is provided’.

He said: ‘CQC inspectors visiting single-handed BME practices already have pre-conceived ideas, an unconscious bias. BAPIO believes the treatment of these doctors is much harsher than others…

‘Of course BAPIO believes in quality care and quality facilities in the surgeries. However, instead of punishing these GPs, the CQC should be looking into providing support.’

But the CQC’s chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field, who will meet with the group on 22 December, stressed that the commission was ‘committed to equality and diversity and will not tolerate discrimination in any form’.

He said: ‘I have heard BAPIO’s concerns about single-handed practices.

‘It is true that more small and single-handed practices appear in our list of practices rated inadequate. However [these] also appear in our list of practices rated outstanding.

‘The problem is not the size of the practice but the professional isolation of the GP. Inadequate practices also appear to have no or fewer nurses than those rated outstanding.

‘We are meeting BAPIO to listen further to their concerns.’

The concerns follow last year’s row between BAPIO and the RCGP about the differences in exit exam failure rates between UK graduates and international medical graduates.

After having been cleared of any wrongdoing in a judicial review, the RCGP undertook a wide-ranging review into its diversity policies and, earlier this year, figures revealed that the gap between white UK and other graduates taking the exam was narrowing.