GMC to review why BME doctors receive more fitness-to-practise referrals

The GMC has commissioned new research to investigate why a disproportionate number of black and minority ethnic (BME) doctors are subject to fitness-to-practise referrals.

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey
GMC chief executive Charlie Massey

The review will also look at whether there is an 'under-representation' of other doctors being referred to the GMC for fitness-to-practise issues.

The GMC said that previous studies had found that its processes are fair and unbiased. However it said research had yet to establish the reason why BME doctors are referred to the GMC more often that their white counterparts.

Between 2012 and 2016, 10.2% of all BME doctors had a complaint made to the GMC about them compared with 8.8% of all white doctors.

The review comes around two years after a GMC report found that BME medical graduates faced unconscious bias and were significantly less likely to pass exams than their white counterparts.

Fitness to practise

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said: ‘Audits have consistently found that our fitness to practise processes and guidance are fair and consistent and do not introduce bias.

‘But we do know that there is an over-representation of BME doctors that have been complained about and we want to know more about what is driving this, as well as whether there is an under representation of other doctors. That is why we are intensifying our efforts to understand better this issue through more detailed research, analysis and advice.

‘This research will allow us to work more closely with clinical leaders to properly develop supportive and open workplaces, where doctors’ interactions with the GMC, and with processes owned by the GMC, are appropriate and fair.’

Impact on BME doctors

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘This is an important area and it’s positive that the GMC is commissioning this work. The BMA believes that we must address and tackle all aspects affecting BME doctors in the NHS from differential levels of attainment and increased levels of referrals for disciplinary and performance issues, to concerns regarding bullying and harassment, and unequal levels of achievement and career progression.’

The research will be lead by Roger Kline, a research fellow at Middlesex University Business School and Dr Doyin Atewologun, a faculty member at Queen Mary University of London’s School of Business Management.

Mr Kline was formerly joint director for workforce race equality standard research and engagement at NHS England and Dr Atewologun was academic adviser to the Parker Review on the ethnic diversity of UK boards and recently co-published a review of unconscious bias training for the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

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