Professor Aneez Esmail found himself at the centre of a bitter row this year over his independent review into ‘racial bias’ in the MRCGP exam.
While no stranger to controversy – he was medical advisor to the Shipman Inquiry – he did not quite expect things to heat up as they did, he says.
Commissioned by the GMC to independently look into reasons behind the higher failure rates for non-white versus white candidates for the MRCGP, the furore began when he refuted an RCGP statement that his report exonerated the college.
‘Part of the problem was the ongoing judicial review and people had taken up pre-fixed positions,’ he says. ‘I didn’t go out to cause controversy but at the same time I was adamant that my research was not misused.’
More recently it was announced he has been appointed by the BMA to chair a wide-ranging review of all post-graduate medical exams. As one of the UK’s leading experts on racism in the NHS, he is an obvious choice to pick apart the complex issues and identify the solutions.
But it has been in his inner-city Manchester practice where he has been most proud of his achievements in the past 12 months. He says: ‘I feel we have turned a corner on how we have tried to meet patients’ needs for appointments.
‘It has been very stressful, but we have weathered the storm reasonably well and it is satisfying that as a practice we have become more stable because of it.’
Ever the optimist he wants to see general practice become fruitfully engaged in the debate over the NHS that is inevitable in the run up to next years general election, rather than resort to ‘moaning’.
‘I don’t think we have a very clear solution at the moment and there are fundamental issues we need to as ourselves as a country and GPs need to be part of this debate in a positive way.’