Last month an Reading Employment Tribunal found that the GMC discriminated against a Mr Karim on the grounds of his race during a fitness to practise (FtP) investigation in 2014.
The tribunal concluded that Mr Karim, who worked at Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – now the Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust (Berkshire) – had received ‘less favourable treatment’ than a white colleague.
The GMC has now lodged an appeal against that decision, which it had previously suggested it would do after labelling the judgment ‘flawed’.
Fitness to practise
But the BMA has said that it will support Mr Karim in the upcoming case against the GMC and fund the legal costs of the surgeon, who has been a member of the union for 37 years.
Campaign group the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) previously warned the GMC against appealing the decision, arguing it would show an unwillingness to ‘understand barriers’ facing black and minority ethnic doctors.
Several investigations were made into Mr Karim’s conduct while he was working at Wrexham Hospital, with the trust eventually referring him to the GMC. He was called up to a fitness to practise tribunal by the GMC after four years of investigations, which found no wrongdoing.
Mr Karim has argued that while the investigations into his conduct continued, similar complaints against a white colleague were quickly dropped. In August 2018 Mr Karim brought claims against the GMC, including a claim of direct race discrimination against the GMC and an employment tribunal found in his favour.
Ethnic minority doctors
Mr Karim said: ‘My professional and personal life was devastated in 2014 simply because I stood up and told the truth.
‘I spoke out in support of patient care at the hospital and, as a result, I was victimised by the trust. I was penalised for not being a white doctor and the impact on mine and my family’s life has been catastrophic.
‘In my opinion, the GMC lacks insight and for it to appeal a judgment from an independent tribunal merely adds insult to injury.’
He added: ‘Four in 10 doctors in the UK are from minority ethnic backgrounds. It’s totally unacceptable that doctors, like me, who give so much to the NHS and without whom our health service could not function, should feel that the dice are loaded against us both at work and by our regulator, the GMC.’
Ethnic minority doctors are twice as likely to be referred to the GMC by their employers for FtP concerns than white doctors – and the referral rate for doctors qualifying outside of the UK is three times higher than that for UK doctors, according to the GMC’s Fair to Refer report.
At the time of the employment tribunal verdict, 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.’
In May the GMC set itself a five-year target for eliminating disproportionate complaints from employers about doctors from minority ethnic groups. It is also aiming to halt bias in medical education within a decade.