Groups representing thousands of doctors tell of their “extreme concerns” over a recent tribunal which found the regulator discriminated against a consultant urologist on the grounds of his race.
Groups representing thousands of ethnic minority NHS staff have written to the General Medical Council (GMC) about their “extreme concerns” over a recent tribunal which found the regulator discriminated against a consultant urologist on the grounds of his race.
Omer Karim, who worked at Wexham Park Hospital in Slough, Berkshire, had been a whistleblower in a case about surgeons performing operations without appropriate training. The surgeon – an internationally renowned urologist of mixed black African and European descent – said he was discriminated against during a GMC investigation, after the same charges against a white doctor were dismissed. Mr Karim won the case but ended up living in a Travelodge after the £300,000 four-year race discrimination battle forced him to sell the family home to fund his case.
The group of doctors, representing medics from Pakistan, India and Africa among others, said the case was one of several similar incidents which served as a reminder “of the terrible cost that the GMC’s actions” have had on NHS staff.
“This strengthens the widely held belief of biased assessment of doctors based on their ethnicity,” they said. “These doctors and their families have felt the heavy handedness of the GMC without any apology or compensation for professional and personal costs to their lives and careers. Doctors are rightly asking why they are paying for their regulator to unjustly prosecute their colleagues?”
The GMC has decided to appeal the decision. Following the tribunal’s judgment Dame Clare Marx, chair of the GMC, said: “We know that many doctors feel discriminated against by the way in which referrals to the GMC are handled, and there remains much for us and others to do to change that. But accepting a flawed tribunal judgment will not help achieve the aims we and others share to tackle inequalities where they exist in disciplinary proceedings for healthcare professionals. We know and are sorry that this will prolong uncertainty and anxiety for all involved, and we will seek to resolve this as swiftly as possible.”
The doctors said they recognise that the GMC needs to protect patients and that a small number of doctors “sadly fall short of the standard”. However, they said doctors of ethnic minorities lack confidence in how they will be judged, and that “previous cases have clearly shown the cards are stacked against them”.
The group said: “This is now a toxic brand that plagues the GMC – it is contributing to poor morale and adversely affecting the mental health of our colleagues. We urge the GMC to reconsider its decision to appeal against the Tribunal’s decision, this would go a long way for the GMC to establish trust with all doctor.”
A GMC spokesperson said: “We recognise that there is genuine concern about the way in which doctors from ethnic minorities are referred to the GMC and how those referrals are handled. We are working hard with health leaders to eradicate inequalities where they exist and remain absolutely focused on our work to target inequalities and promote equality, diversity and inclusion – both in our own processes, and across the UK health system.”