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GMC survey to explore perceived unfairness towards ethnic minority doctors

The General Medical Council is surveying doctors to understand whether there is a perception of unfairness around the fitness-to-practise process, especially with regards to black and minority ethnic doctors, it announced today.  

The survey will ask whether black and minority ethnic (BME) doctors are treated unfairly when registering and when undergoing disciplinary procedures, as well as whether the revalidation process is fair, among other questions.

This follows concerns raised about the high proportion of BME doctors who face fitness-to-practise hearings and builds on the focus groups established by the GMC at the end of last year, which were exclusively revealed by Pulse.

The GMC will ask almost 7,000 doctors from all backgrounds – drawn from an anonymous sample of doctors on the register – about their perceptions of the regulator. The research – which will be undertaken by the National Centre for Social Research – will also cover doctors´ confidence in the GMC and how it protects the public.

It will explore concerns about ageism and racism and will gauge opinion on English language tests as a part of registration.

The results will help to ensure the GMC continues to apply its standards consistently and makes decisions that are fair to everyone regardless of their background, the GMC said.

The original research proposals for the focus groups, held in January this year, said: ‘Anecdotal feedback suggests that… core functions of the GMC are also perceived as conveying some degree of discrimination. For example, in some quarters, there is the belief that some doctors face a more expedient, simpler, registration process than others.

‘Given the challenges referred to above, we are committed to improving the perceptions of our work amongst these protected groups. Whilst we know that the GMC is perceived negatively in some quarters, we do not know how widely held such views are. This study will therefore address this evidence gap through establishing a robust baseline for current perceptions of the GMC amongst BME doctors.’

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: ‘As an organisation we are committed to listening and improving what we do. We know that we can be controversial at times and that we must do more to understand concerns about the work we do.

‘A year ago we held our first “Fairness” conference bringing together leaders from across healthcare. We made a number of commitments at that event including obtaining better data, which is why we are keen to hear from doctors to understand the factors that influence their perceptions of the GMC.

‘This will help us ensure that we are regulating as fairly and objectively as we can. This feedback will also to help to make sure we apply our standards consistently and address any concerns that doctors raise through the survey.’