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GMC more likely to investigate complaints against BME doctors

Black and minority ethnic doctors are more likely to face a GMC investigation from complaints about them compared with their white counterparts.

An investigation by BBC News found that 44% of complaints made against black doctors over five years led to investigations compared with 29% of complaints made against white doctors.

Over ten years, the numbers were even more stark, with 57% of complaints progressed to investigation for black or black British doctors, 54% for Asian or Asian British doctors and 44% for white doctors.

The GMC has said it is not ‘complacent’ about its processes not being discriminatory, and if its independent review into the discrimination of BME doctors produces any findings about its current processes, it will ‘take immediate action to address them.’

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said the GMC is aware that BME doctors are more likely to be referred to them than white doctors.

He said: ‘We know that black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) doctors are more likely to be referred to the GMC by public bodies than white doctors, and an independent study has found that this results in more BAME doctors being investigated and receiving sanctions.

‘We are not complacent about our own processes being free from discrimination, which is why we regularly and independently get them reviewed to ensure they are in line with our published guidance and without bias. These audits have always found that our decisions are consistent with this guidance and without evidence of bias, and that the guidance itself does not introduce bias.

‘But we want to understand better why these referrals are happening and that’s why we have asked two independent experts (Roger Kline and Dr Doyin Atewologun) to carry out a major piece of independent research. We hope this will shed light on this problem and give practical recommendations on how we and others can tackle it. For our part, we’re clear that if the research makes any findings about our current processes or outcomes, we will take immediate action to address them.’

Law and policy lead for The Doctors’ Association UK Dr Jenny Vaughan said: ‘It is not right that in some areas, some hospital trusts refer nearly twice as many black and ethnic minority doctors to the regulator than other trusts. This disparity should really be looked at so there isn’t a knee-jerk response going on in weaponising the GMC against certain vulnerable groups of doctors. The GMC itself is not racist. However, it does appear to be to me, that in some trusts BAME doctors are treated differently to white doctors, hence the higher rates of complaints to the GMC.’

This comes as the RCGP has been threatened again with court action over the difference in MRCGP exam pass rates between black and minority ethnic doctors and the lack of action following the 2013 judicial review. 

Mr Massey has also recently admitted that the legal advice the GMC received during the Dr Bawa-Garba case was wrong.

The GMC has previously been criticised by organisation BAPIO for focusing on employer’s complaints about BME doctors rather than the way the regulator treats BME doctors.