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Overseas doctors still over-represented in GMC cases

GMC says research is underway to understand causes

Jo Carlowe

Friday, 04 July 2008

Overseas doctors remain over-represented in GMC procedures, according to the latest statistics.

The General Medical Council’s newly released annual data reveal that for 2006 International Medical Graduates (IMGs) were over-represented at each successive stage of GMC procedures and that the pattern continued in 2007.

Speaking to OnMedica, GP Dr Prasad Rao, chair of the British International Doctors’ Association (BIDA), said the reasons for this were complex.

“We think there are multiple reasons – some to do with prejudice, some to do with cultural difference and some to do with communication skills. It may be, for example, that an Asian male doctor may avoid looking a female patient in the eye – causing the patient to think the doctor is not paying attention.

“Overall, however, we are in the dark as to why IMGs are over-represented. There may be prejudice but generally the British public have accepted different skin colours and surnames for over 60 years, so we really need to get to the bottom of what is going on. I welcome the fact that there is an independent study being carried out to explore this.”

Dr Rao said he had met with the president of the GMC to discuss these issues.

Paul Philip, the GMC’s Director of Standards and Fitness to Practise, confirmed that the GMC had commissioned a series of research programmes to “assist in our understanding of equality and diversity issues as they relate to fitness to practices procedures.”

A joint project with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is underway to try and understand why this phenomenon occurs, with results expected in 2009.

In the meantime, Dr Rao is urging his members to read the GMC’s annual report and those of their medical indemnity organisations to try to avoid the pitfalls described in previous cases.

The GMC’s annual fitness to practise statistics also revealed that the number of enquires received by the GMC increased by 1.6%, from 5,085 in 2006 to 5,168 in 2007. Of these, 1,388 enquiries were referred for a full investigation, compared to 1,864 in 2006.

A spokesperson said the decrease in the numbers of enquiries referred for a full investigation reflects improved communications with local NHS trusts, which mean a greater number of enquiries to the GMC are resolved satisfactorily through contact with the employing organisation.

In 2007 60 doctors were erased from the medical register, compared to 54 in 2006.

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