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Most ethnic minority doctors think fitness-to-practise proceedings are unfair

More than half of BME and non-UK qualified doctors believe that the GMC’s fitness-to-practise process is unfair to doctors in these groups, a major review commissioned by the GMC itself has revealed.

The study concluded that 60% of BME doctors thought that non-UK qualified doctors or BME doctors are more likely to receive an unfair outcome from fitness-to-practise investigations than other doctors. This compared with 30% of white doctors who said it was unfair to BME and non-UK qualified doctors.

The percentage of doctors who were ‘very confident’ in the way they are regulated by the GMC on the whole was low for all groups, but slightly higher for BME doctors (22%) than white doctors (16%).

The report, which covered of 3,500 medics and was conducted between August 2013 and November 2013, comes as part of efforts being made by the GMC to improve its reputation among black and minority ethnic doctors, which has suffered as a result of the high proportion of non-white doctors facing fitness-to-practise panels.

It found that there were problems with its perception in terms of fitness-to-practice panels, but there were also some positive results for the regulator.

The report, carried our by NatCen Social Research, said: ‘The majority of doctors were confident in the way that they are regulated by the GMC; 18% of all doctors were very confident and a further 61% were fairly confident; 17%of doctors said they were not very confident; and 4% said that they were not at all confident in the way the GMC regulates doctors.’

‘There was little difference in the proportions of men and women who were very confident in the GMC, but levels of confidence in the GMC varied with ethnicity. BME doctors showed the most confidence; 22% were very confident, compared with 16% of white doctors, and 13% of doctors who did not disclose their ethnicity in response to this question in the survey.’

The study was focused on doctors’ perceptions of the fairness of the GMC, with the researchers using focus groups and a quantitative survey. They looked at views and perceptions across four key areas: general views of the GMC; registration; revalidation and fitness to practise.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: ‘It is reassuring that the vast majority of doctors, from all backgrounds, have confidence in what we do, but it is clear we have more to do. Our role must always be to put patients first but to achieve that we need to work closely with doctors and it is vital that, regardless of where they trained, their ethnicity or their background, each of them trusts us to operate fairly at all times and in the best interests of patient safety.’

‘We may never be popular but we play a fundamental role in doctors’ professional lives, and, as the report suggests, we must not only be fair, but be seen to be fair.’

‘This is a complex area, and we are committed to encouraging greater transparency.’