• GMC chief executive described high number of BAME doctors referred to GMC as an “institutional problem”
  • Mr Massey said BAME doctors are at more risk of being treated as an outsider when things go wrong
  • Comments follow new research that makes recommendations for GMC and other NHS organisations to improve

The disproportionate number of black, Asian and minority ethnic doctors referred to the General Medical Council is an “institutional problem” and “widespread” in the NHS, the chief executive of the regulator has said.

Charlie Massey, chief executive of the GMC, said this outcome is “clearly and demonstrably unfair”.

“If you’re a BAME doctor you are more at risk of being treated as an outsider when things go wrong and therefore that gets in the way of creating the learning culture we want,” he said.

“A lot of it is related to boards having the right sorts of conversations about the inclusivity of their leadership,” Mr Massey said. “Those institutional problems are at one level quite generic about management and leadership.”

Mr Massey’s comments come in the wake of new research commissioned by the GMC, which found a lack of support and isolation are factors that resulted in a disproportionate number of BAME doctors referred to the regulator.

The GMC asked researchers to conduct UK-wide research and deliver recommendations for the GMC to act on.

Their report, published today, found a combination of “intricately linked” factors could explain the disproportionate number of BAME doctors referred to the GMC.

It found some doctors from diverse groups do not always receive effective or honest feedback, which could prevent problems later.

They also found some doctors don’t have an adequate induction or enough support in transitioning to new social, culture or professional environments. Working patterns meant that some doctors were working in isolated roles without access to learning experiences or mentors.

The research also revealed some groups of doctors are treated as “outsiders”, which creates barriers to opportunities and makes them less favoured than “insiders”.

Researchers made four main recommendations for addressing these issues. They called for:

  • Providing comprehensive support for doctors new to the UK or the NHS or whose role is likely to isolate them (including SAS doctors and locums).
  • Ensuring engaged and positive leadership more consistently across the NHS.
  • Creating working environments that focus on learning and accountability rather than blame.
  • Developing a programme of work to deliver, measure and evaluate the delivery of these recommendations.

Mr Massey told HSJ the report demonstrates, “there are things nationally we should be worried about in terms of what’s going on in the treatment of BAME doctors”.

“I suspect many of the things are relevant to other BAME health professionals,” he said.

Mr Massey added it also “hits the bottom line of the NHS”.

“We want to get as much out of all of our workforce as we possibly can and what the report shows is there are more barriers to you as a BAME doctor than if you are a white doctor and they are things we need to address,” he said.

He stressed the GMC was “committed” in taking forward the recommendations.

“I’m not the least bit complacent about whether we’ve got discrimination in our processes. Thus far what the evidence shows is the disproportionality is more driven about what comes into our processes,” Mr Massey added.

Doyin Atewologun, co-author and director of the Gender, Leadership and Inclusion Centre at Cranfield University, said: “Our wide-ranging study focused on lived experience, which we felt was the best way to investigate this complex issue.”

“We hope our four key recommendations will have real, measurable impact, encouraging employers and leaders to tackle what is clearly a system-wide problem,” Dr Atewologun said.

Roger Kline, research fellow at Middlesex University Business School and one of the report’s authors, said: “We hope our research will prompt serious, sustained work to ensure that all doctors, irrespective of their background or characteristics or mode of employment, are treated fairly within NHS employment, disciplinary processes or GMC referrals.”

“At a time when the NHS is seeking doctors from around the world to support the NHS it is essential that their invaluable expertise is recognised, they are supported and are treated fairly,” he said.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “For the NHS to truly be the best place to work it must take action to treat all staff, from all backgrounds fairly.”