Avoiding racial bias in FTP cases

Concerns about disproportionate representation of BAME groups in professional conduct hearings are being investigated by UK healthcare regulators. OT  finds out more

Alistair Bridge

A far-reaching healthcare review has recommended that concerns about the over-representation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) healthcare professionals in fitness to practise (FTP) cases are “investigated, understood and addressed.”

The recommendation was included in a rapid policy review of gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare led by Professor Sir Norman Williams.

Former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, commissioned the review after the General Medical Council (GMC) appealed an FTP decision about a doctor who was convicted of the offence.

The panel heard that BAME registrants are over-represented in the FTP processes of a number of regulators.

Research undertaken by the General Medical Council (GMC) and Nursing and Midwifery Council found that rates of referral of BAME professionals to the regulators are higher than expected, although there is no evidence that the fitness to practise processes of the regulators are discriminatory.

When approached by OT, a General Optical Council (GOC) spokesperson said that the regulator does not hold information at present about whether BAME registrants are over-represented in the regulator’s fitness to practise process.

GOC director of strategy, Alistair Bridge (pictured), said: “We are committed to understanding whether any particular groups are over-represented in our fitness to practise process, and if so, understanding and addressing the reasons why.”

"We are committed to understanding whether any particular groups are over-represented in our fitness to practise process"

“Collecting equality and diversity data from our registrants as part of the renewal this year was the first step to doing this,” he added.

Mr Bridge said that panel members and GOC staff receive equality and diversity training. The GOC’s panel members are also provided with unconscious bias training.

In 2000, there was BAME representation on only 2% of the GMC’s FTP panels. This figure improved to 80% in 2015.

The GMC has commissioned research to understand why practitioners with certain characteristics, including BAME professionals, are referred to the regulator more frequently than others.

The review emphasised: “The panel recognises that the factors which lead to the over-representation of BAME professionals in fitness to practise proceedings are complex and are not solely within the control of the regulators. However, the regulators should continue to take steps to ensure that their processes are fair to all registrants.”

The report recommended that healthcare regulators should ensure that fitness to practise panel members receive appropriate equality and diversity training.