The GMC has achieved marginal improvements against its targets to reduce racial inequalities, it said in an annual update on the programme.
However, BAME doctor representatives as well as the GMC itself said the progress was not sufficient against the targets which the regulator had set itself last year.
These included stopping disproportionate complaints from employers about ethnic minority doctors by 2026, and getting rid of disadvantage and discrimination in medical education and training by 2031.
According to the update, the gap between employer referral rates for ethnic minority doctors and international medical graduates, compared to white doctors, has marginally reduced.
The report showed that:
- The proportion of designated bodies with fitness to practise (FTP) referrals with ‘evidence of disproportionality’ in terms of ethnicity or UK/international qualification has gone down roughly 5%, from 5.6% between 2016 to 2020, to 5.3% during the period between 2017 and 2021.
- The gap in employer FTP rates of referral between ethnic minority licenced doctors and white doctors has fallen from 0.28% (0.30% white, 0.58% ethnic minority), during 2016-2020, to 0.24% (0.26% white, 0.50% ethnic minority) during 2017-2021.
- ‘Fairness measures’ for medical training and education have remained ‘at similar levels’.
- However, the GMC said it had achieved its target to increase its ethnic minority workforce representation at all levels of the organisation.
The report also acknowledged the judgment by an employment tribunal in June last year, which found that the GMC had discriminated against a doctor based on his race.
Reading Employment Tribunal upheld a complaint that Dr Omer Karim, who previously worked as a consultant urologist in Slough, had been discriminated against during an investigation by the GMC, after the body dismissed charges against a white doctor accused of the same conduct.
The GMC has appealed the verdict but is still waiting for the appeal to be heard.
The GMC report said: ‘We understand stakeholders’ disappointment with that outcome, and our decision to appeal.
‘In response we began a broader review of how we assure ourselves that our regulatory processes clearly demonstrate fairness in decision making, and proactively demonstrate where potential fairness concerns may exist.’
GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said: ‘This update sets out the actions taken by us, and by others, to drive change. The early indications are good, but we are not complacent. Much more needs to be done. The issues are longstanding, and the incremental changes that are being made may take time to work through to the data.
‘We will continue our sustained focus, and we are calling on other organisations to do the same. These annual updates, of which this is the first, will continue to shine a light on the extent to which the necessary changes are happening.’
However, British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) president Dr Ramesh Mehta expressed concern about the lack of progress made.
He told Pulse: ‘The way they’re handling it, it is not going to happen… to change that culture, getting rid of racism among this small number of people is not going to be easy, unless the GMC takes some real, substantial actions.’
He said the gap in referral rates has ‘hardly narrowed’, with ‘absolutely racist’ responsible officers continuing to refer BAME doctors disproportionately.
‘The only thing that they have done is improve ethnic minority workforce representation in the GMC itself, which is fair enough, and we appreciate that. But that is not going to help the BAME doctors.’
Medical Protection Society president Professor Dame Jane Dacre said MPS ‘welcomes’ the progress, but that the ‘current situation remains unacceptable’.
She added: ‘We recognise there are multiple and complex causes behind this issue, and that changes in the figures over a longer time period will provide a clearer indication of progress, however the target year of 2026 is just around the corner and more action is needed.’
It comes as the GMC chief executive said in April last year the GMC was to become a ‘force for good’ in tackling the ‘shameful’ disadvantage ethnic minority GPs face in their careers.
In the same month, the GMC said it would consider proposals to establish ‘measures and targets’ to mitigate bias against ethnic minority doctors in FTP referrals as well as address the ‘attainment gap’ faced by BAME medical students and trainees.
And a coalition of medical organisations called for the GMC to swiftly be stripped of its powers to appeal FTP tribunal decisions, as an FOI investigation revealed this has happened in a further 14 cases since the Bawa-Garba fallout.