BME doctors face unconscious bias and remain less likely to pass exams, says GMC

Medical graduates from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds face unconscious bias and are significantly less likely to pass exams than their white counterparts, according to GMC reports.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson
GMC chief executive Niall Dickson

Research on progression of doctors published by the GMC suggests that an individual’s ethnicity and background impacts how likely they are to pass exams following training.

The report shows that the pass rate for white UK graduates is 76%, compared to just 63% for BME UK medical graduates.

The pass rate for doctors who received their primary medical qualification from overseas – outside of the UK and European Economic Area (EEA) – is just 41%.

Interviews with BME graduates, undertaken by independent researchers from University College London (UCL) as part of the report, found that many felt they faced unconscious bias in assessments, recruitment and day-to-day working.

GP pass rates

Graduates from outside the UK also reported issues including difficulties fitting in at work, being separated from support networks, adapting to the UK’s cultural norms and – in some cases – overt prejudice.

Following the findings, the GMC has pledged to work with others to ‘continue to address the issue’. This will include introducing requirements for medical education organisations to ensure they consider fairness and equality.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: ‘The GMC is committed to doing everything we can to make sure that every doctor in training has the opportunity and support necessary to fulfil their potential.

‘We have been looking at the fairness of training pathways for some time. This data will help organisations involved in medical education to ensure there is no unfairness or bias in their training and assessments. We all need to be confident that assessments are fair, and that doctors who need extra support are able to access it.’

Clinical education

Dr Anthea Mowat, chairwoman of the BMA’s representative body, said: ‘Succeeding in training should be about an individual's ability, not their background or circumstances of their birth. Examiners and trainers should also understand how to support fairness and diversity in clinical education and training.

‘We welcome the GMC’s on-going monitoring in this area and echo their call to action to make sure that fairness and equality are embedded in everything that the medical royal colleges, postgraduate training organisations and medical schools do.

‘The BMA and its stakeholders have published good practice guidance which we hope will help improve the quality of training and fairness in training, assessments and monitoring.’

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