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Friday, 14 February, 2003, 16:01 GMT
GMC 'tougher on foreign doctors'
The GMC is reforming its disciplinary procedures
The General Medical Council is facing accusations that it discriminates against doctors who trained overseas.

An independent study has found that foreign doctors are much more likely to end up in front of one of its disciplinary committees than those who train in the UK.

They are also substantially more likely to be found guilty of an offence and are at much higher risk of being banned from practising medicine.

The GMC remains open to accusations of bias

Prof Isobel Allen,
Institute of Policy Studies
Researchers said they found no evidence that these doctors were discriminated against.

However, they said a lack of transparency in GMC procedures meant the organisation could be open to accusations that it is not treating all doctors the same.

Doctors qualifying abroad make up 30% of Britain's medical workforce and attract 30% of complaints.

However, in 2001, they accounted for 58% of doctors charged with serious professional misconduct.

In contrast, doctors who trained in the UK accounted for 70% of complaints but only 42% of those charged with serious professional misconduct.

In the same year, 77% of foreign doctors were found guilty compared to only 60% of their UK-trained colleagues.

Researchers at the Institute of Policy Studies were unable to explain the discrepancies.

In their report, they state: "It is possible that the complaints about overseas qualifiers are simply more serious and that their disproportionate referral rates and outcomes of hearings are fair and reasonable.

"However, until there are some objective measures which can demonstrate this, the GMC remains open to accusations of bias."

Professor Isobel Allen, who headed the study, urged the GMC to introduce new guidelines to ensure all doctors were being judged against the same high standards.

She suggested all doctors should have to meet certain criteria before they are disciplined.

The findings of the report will be discussed at a meeting of the GMC's governing council later this month.

A spokeswoman said: "The council will be considering the preliminary report at their meeting on 26 February and assessing what action, if any, needs to be taken as a result."

She added: "The GMC is committed to continuing work in ensuring the future procedures are fair and transparent."

See also:

07 Jul 00 | Health
04 Mar 99 | Health
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