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Thursday, 4 March, 1999, 10:07 GMT
GMC to tackle racism
21.41 03.03.99 gmc ac
The GMC has stood accused of racist procedures for years
The General Medical Council is to discuss the problem of potentially racist procedures when it meets in May.

The debate will centre on a report that found that doctors from abroad are twice as likely to face a disciplinary hearing as UK-trained doctors.

Although only one in three cases initially examined by GMC screeners involves an overseas doctor, a disproportionate number of such cases progress to a serious professional misconduct hearing.

The council has six screeners who evaluate each case individually. They decide how far a complaint against a doctor should progress.

The findings of the report, which was commissioned by the GMC itself, were revealed in Doctor and Hospital Doctor newspapers.

Plan to attack institutional racism

For years the GMC has stood accused of racist procedures and practices.

The GMC commissioned the Policy Studies Institute to review the performance of its screening process as a follow-up to an earlier study.

That showed a similar disparity in the progression of cases.

While the new report shows the GMC has failed to resolve the issue, the council hopes it will illuminate more clearly what is going wrong.

The current study is ongoing and will conclude just before the May meeting. The GMC says this allows it to look at how cases are handled while they are in progress.

'Well-accepted problem'

Dr Sri Venugopal is national president of the UK Overseas Doctors Association, and has also been a member of the GMC for 15 years.

He said it was well accepted that overseas doctors were more likely to face a hearing.

"The racial equality committee within the GMC has been looking at discrimination and racial bias within GMC procedures for some time," he said.

He added that screeners looking at cases and deciding whether to pass it on for a full hearing might regard a case involving an English doctor one way and an overseas doctor another.

Lessons for the future

But he did not think the report would mark a breakthrough for the council.

"The reaction will be the same as it has been before because for the last 15 years people have been telling the GMC to look into their internal procedures to see why the disparity is there," he said.

However, he welcomed the GMC's moves to tackle the issue, such as setting up the racial equality committee.

"This is not just the story of the GMC, this is the story of our lives. There is racism within community and doctors are no exception in becoming victims of racial bias.

"The report will come forward at the May meeting and we can see what are the lessons we need to learn, what are the procedures that need to change and what levels of transparency are needed to ensure people are not victims of bias," he said.

See also:

17 Dec 98 | Health
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24 Feb 99 | Health
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