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​GMC may consider anonymous FTP investigations to avoid racial bias

Exclusive The GMC may consider anonymising fitness-to-practice investigations, after a GP leader suggested doing so would ‘reduce any bias’ in the regulatory system.

Dr Gaurav Gupta, a representative on the BMA’s GP Committee, said that he proposed anonymising FTP investigations at a BMA conference, because of concerns that BME doctors ‘get tougher sanctions at the outcome of regulatory proceedings’. 

In response, the GMC told Pulse that researchers leading its ongoing review of employer referrals to the GMC will be made aware of the points raised, ‘so they may be considered as part of their review’.

Dr Gupta made the suggestion at the BMA’s conference on racism in medicine earlier this month where Roger Kline, one of the lead researchers on the GMC review, was also in attendance.

Dr Gupta told Pulse: ‘We know that BME doctors are more likely to be reported to the GMC and there have been concerns that they get tougher sanctions at the outcome of regulatory proceedings.

‘The NHS needs to do more to reduce any bias in the complaints and regulatory system.

‘One way to do this is to anonymise the processes until the stage where an individual intervention is required.’

His comments come as the GMC is carrying out a major review looking into the number of complaints received from employers against doctors with a BME background in April.

The terms of reference for the review, released earlier this month, said that the research will help the GMC ‘understand what constitutes good practice with respect to processes and assurance of decision making prior to and at the point of referral to the GMC’.

Anthony Omo, director of fitness to practise for the GMC, said previous independent audits have shown that ‘ethnicity does not affect the way we handle complaints’, with staff ‘trained in equality, diversity and unconscious bias’.

He added: ‘But we do know BME doctors are overrepresented in referrals from employers which is linked to their overrepresentation in our fitness-to-practise procedures and we’ve commissioned research to examine why this occurs, and how we can work with clinical leaders and employers to make positive change.

‘We will make sure the lead researchers, Dr Doyin Atewologun and Roger Kline, are aware of the concerns raised at the BMA conference, so they may be considered as part of their review of employer referrals to the GMC.’

The review was launched after the GMC was accused of ‘inherent bias’ against BME doctors for taking a case to the High Court in an attempt to ensure Nigerian-born Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba was struck off the medical register following a conviction of gross negligence manslaughter.