GPs: One Examination Too Far for Race Equality

The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (Bapio) has this week been unsuccessful in its Judicial Review claim against the Royal College of General Practitioners

Picture of Luke Patel

Luke Patel

(RCGP) and the General Medical Council (GMC), the doctors’ regulatory body.  Racial discrimination allegations sparked the Judicial Review claim, and began last Tuesday at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Bapio began its legal battle against the RCGP and the GMC due to claims that the RCGP’s membership exam, the MRCGP, which doctors must pass to practise as a GP in the UK, discriminates against ethnic minority candidates.

Bapio’s allegations against the RCGP (which conducts the exam) and the GMC (which is accountable for ensuring a fair process), included evidence that white candidates are four times more likely to pass the exam first time than minority ethnic candidates trained in the UK, and 14 times more likely than candidates trained overseas. Particular emphasis was drawn to the Clinical Skills Assessment (CSA), where students are examined on their ability to demonstrate effective communication with patients and colleagues.

At the Judicial Review hearing, Mr Justice Mitting rejected the claim by Bapio that the CSA should be declared unlawful. He found that the RCGP was neither racially discriminatory nor in breach of its public sector equality duty.

All is not lost.

Mr Justice Mitting said the claim had been brought in good faith and in the public interest. He then expressed hope that the case would lead to progress: “the bringing of this claim is likely, in the end, to bring something of benefit to the medical profession.” Mr Justice Mitting found that there was a disparity in results between different ethnic groups and stated that the RCGP must take action. He then expressed words of warning: “If it does not act and its failure to act is the subject of a further challenge in the future, it may well be that it will be held to have breached its duty,” he said. “But, as of now, I am satisfied that it’s not in breach of its duty.”

Mr Justice Mitting concluded by describing the outcome for Bapio as “if not a legal victory then a moral success”.

Bapio president Dr Ramesh Mehta expressed hope in the judge’s remarks:
“Although we may have lost the battle at this time, we feel we have won the war because the Judge has also said to the RCGP that they must now take action”.

Whilst Bapio is undoubtedly disappointed with the judgment it seems that there could be a brighter future ahead for those ethnic minorities due to sit the examination. Mr Justice Mitting’s judgment could be seen as an invitation for Bapio to initiate further Judicial Review proceedings should the RCGP fail to take action to reduce the disparity in the results of the examination. This would not have been achieved without Bapio’s Judicial Review claim.

We at Blacks have experience in handling Judicial Review proceedings and Medical Practice Law. If you require advice in relation to a Judicial Review claim or Medical Practice Law then please contact me to discuss.

Luke Patel
Commercial Dispute Resolution Department
0113 227 9316

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