Doctors from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are not given enough support by managers, which explains why they suffer from a disproportionately high referral rate to the General Medical Council (GMC).
A study was recently conducted by Cranfield University and Middlesex University, commissioned by the GMC, which looked into the referral process to fitness to practise procedures.
The Fair to Refer? report found BAME physicians are more than twice as likely to be referred as white doctors, resulting in them having a higher chance of being investigated, and subsequently, given a warning or sanction.
The research, conducted by Dr Doyin Atewologun, reader in gender, inclusion and leadership at Cranfield University, together with Roger Kline, research fellow at Middlesex University Business School, discovered why more BAME doctors were called for referral than white colleagues.
The most common reasons were the lack of induction or support in transitioning to new social, cultural and professional environments for BAME doctors. They were also not often given “effective, honest or timely feedback” on their practises, stemmed out of the fact that many managers from different ethnic groups try to avoid awkward conversations.
It also found some doctors in isolated roles have a lack of learning experiences, mentors and resources to build up their practical skills and bedside manner, while some physicians are still treated as ‘outsiders’ by their colleagues and bosses. Therefore, they find it difficult to ask for advice and support from their leaders.
Dr Atewologun stated:
“The factors behind disproportionate representation of certain groups of doctors in fitness to practice referrals are multiple and intricately linked, with ‘risk factors’ for certain groups of doctors and ‘protective factors’ for others layering upon one another to create a cumulative positive impact for some and a cumulative negative impact for others.”
Chief executive of the GMC Charlie Massey went on to say workplaces with “just and fair cultures” are necessary for effective and supported doctors, as well as “strong clinical leadership that fosters trust and confidence in employees”.
The organisation wants to encourage more support for BAME doctors, so problems can be solved at an earlier stage without GMC intervention.
To achieve this, the study offers several recommendations, including focusing on learning from an incident as opposed to looking for someone to blame for it; encouraging engaged, positive and inclusive leadership across the NHS; and providing better support for doctors new to the UK or the NHS and for those who have a particularly isolating role, such as locums and SAS doctors.
As well as improving support for BAME doctors, the GMC recently committed itself to helping physicians and medical students with disabilities more.
Its Welcome and Value Guidance advises training providers on how to help those with disabilities “fulfil their potential”.
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