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Friday, 7 July, 2000, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
GMC racism 'cannot be ruled out'
gmc
The GMC has defended itself from allegations of racism
A report says there is no evidence of overt racism in how the General Medical Council treats black doctors - despite statistics suggesting the opposite.

The independent study from the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) found that disproportionately high numbers of "overseas" doctors are sent to face disciplinary hearings.

UK-trained doctors who are the subject of complaints are much more likely to be let off with a warning, or have no action taken against them at all.

There is clearly a problem of some sort at the GMC

Dr Surendra Kumar, Overseas Doctors Association

The GMC, whose job is to protect patients from doctors guilty of poor practice or misconduct, is still reeling from a vote of no confidence delivered at the British Medical Association's annual conference.

An interim version of the report was discussed at the GMC in mid-1999, but it has yet to be released in full.

'No overt racism'

The report's author, Isabel Allen, found that while there was no direct evidence of overt racism within the GMC, it could not be entirely ruled out.

She recommended firmer guidelines for the committees and individuals who screen the cases to see if there is enough evidence of misconduct to merit a full disciplinary hearing.

However, she suggested that more overseas doctors were being reported by public bodies such as health authorities and community health councils - and complaints from these sources were far more likely to progress further.

Dr Surendra Kumar, a GP, and chairman of the Overseas Doctors' Association, said that his members would be "very disappointed" that it had taken so long to publish the report.

He said: "There is clearly a problem of some sort at the GMC.

"A lot of time has passed in which many overseas doctors will have been disciplined under that system and may not have been treated fairly.

"It is worrying that there appears to be racism throughout the NHS, but the GMC cannot completely absolve itself of responsibility."

A spokesman for the GMC said: "It is encouraging that the Policy Studies Institute have found no evidence of racism but there are issues to be tackled.

"The challenge now is to look urgently at the report's conclusions, take all steps to ensure our procedures are demonstrably fair, objective, transparent and free from discrimination."

Dr Krishna Korlipara, a GMC council member, and also a case screener, said that while there might be racism within the GMC, it was unlikely to be institutional.

He said: "It's hard to explain how seven or eight people sitting in a committee could all be racist unless there are differences in culture which, as a body, the committee is not appreciating."

See also:

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