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RCGP instigates wide-ranging review into diversity policies following CSA court case

Exclusive The RCGP has started a wholesale review into its equality and diversity policies following this year’s High Court case into the MRCGP exams, Pulse has learnt.

The college will look into the diversity and membership across all its main areas of work, including the MRCGP examinations and the recruitment of clinical leads, committee members and staff, and has set up two groups to review its policies.

The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, which took the college to judicial review over the differences in failure rates between white and non-white medical graduates sitting the MRCGP exam, said that this move signalled that the RCGP was ‘sincerely following the outcome of the judicial review’.

As part of the review, the chair of BAPIO has been invited to talk to examiners on equality and diversity issues at the MRCGP annual conference next month.

The RCGP said that the new work ‘comes in the wake’ of the judicial review, which – although finding in favour of the college – ‘highlighted some additional areas to which [the Public Sector Equality Duty] now applies and some areas to review following recent research findings’.

The judicial review ruled the MRCGP exam was ‘lawful’, but the judge presiding over the case declared that the ‘time had come’ to act on differentials in the pass rates between white and non-white trainees taking the CSA exam, the role-playing test of GPs’ clinical and communication skills.

The college said that it will be exploring the most effective way to collect ‘characteristic data’ on members, committee members, trainees and examiners, with the aim of enhancing the diversity of membership representation, including encouraging more involvement from younger members and people from diverse backgrounds.

It has set up a new Equality and Diversity Programme Board led by chief executive, Neil Hunt, and supported by RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker, and an Equality and Diversity Advisory Group, with representation from BAPIO and Stonewall, the gay rights group, among other organisations.

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘The RCGP is committed to equality and diversity and this new programme of work will help us to aim even higher and become an exemplar of good practice to other royal colleges and health bodies.

‘We are particularly pleased to be working with – and learning from – such a wide range of  organisations, not least BAPIO and Stonewall, and value their specialist input in making the College as inclusive an organisation as possible. As well as benefiting our members and staff, this will undoubtedly have a positive impact on patient care and the services we deliver in frontline general practice.’

A spokesperson for the RCGP said: ‘BAPIO president Dr Ramesh Mehta has been invited by the RCGP to the annual MRCGP conference to give a 20-minute session addressing CSA examiners on equality and diversity.’

Dr Mehta welcomed the college’s announcement on reviewing its policies, but warned that it should not become ‘just a paper exercise.’

He added: ‘We are delighted that the RCGP is sincerely following the outcome of judicial review. The judge had clearly warned RCGP that if they did not ensure the equality impact assessment and if they were challenged again they are likely to lose.

‘BAPIO welcomes the move of the college to look in to all aspects of equality and diversity. This may be a role model to be followed by other colleges. BAPIO will be happy to extend full cooperation to the college in this endeavour. We will also be keen to ensure that it is done effectively and not just a paper exercise.’

Meanwhile, Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the BMA’s Equality and Diversity Committee, said: ‘It is important that we have a training and working environment which strongly promotes equality at all levels. The RCGP’s work in this area is an important step forward that the BMA will be happy to be fully involved in. We need to ensure that these initiatives result in tangible differences for all doctors.’

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