HCSA statement on the tribunal victory of Mr Omer Karim over GMC racial discrimination

The HCSA has issued the following statement after a tribunal judgement found the GMC had racially discriminated against Consultant urologist Mr Omer Karim in its handling of his case:

HCSA applauds the tribunal ruling in favour of Consultant urologist Mr Omer Karim this week which shines a light on the disgraceful institutional racism which so many hospital doctors face.

This is another unacceptable example where the GMC has adopted an adversarial approach towards the medical profession which, in the words of the employment tribunal, saw it “looking for material to support allegations … rather than fairly assessing matters presented”.

His story is all too familiar. After blowing the whistle on bullying, discrimination and poor practice at his Trust, his employer responded by referring him to the GMC on separate allegations.

He was then subjected to years of suspicion and implied guilt by initially being placed under interim conditions before having to wait three more years before his case was finally heard.

The tribunal held that the GMC was complacent in its approach towards Mr Karim’s referral, failing to take into account the possibility that discrimination was a factor despite statistics revealing the stark bias against BAME doctors within the disciplinary system.

Those statistics were underlined by the fact that a white doctor facing near identical allegations had his case dismissed by the GMC.

The scathing findings of the employment tribunal with regards the GMC’s approach are, tragically, no surprise to HCSA. Yet again we have a case of a doctor who is not white being dragged through a futile and flawed disciplinary process with little consideration of the discriminatory factors which result in disproportionately more black and ethnic minority doctors facing GMC referrals.

BAME doctors have good reason to distrust the GMC, which has shown itself to be anything but a fair arbiter in such cases. Disgracefully, UK graduate doctors from ethnic minorities are 50 percent more likely to receive a sanction or warning than white doctors.

Once again, this episode took place in part under the stewardship of GMC chief executive Charlie Massey, whose notorious role in the case of junior doctor Hadiza Bawa-Garba’s hounding through the courts led HCSA to demand his resignation. We reiterate that position following this most recent example of corporate failure.

This case is all the more apposite given the ruling coincides with a power grab by the GMC which, if proposed legislative changes come to pass, will see it given far greater autonomy and scope to write swathes of its own rulebook free from parliamentary oversight.

In HCSA’s view the GMC, in this and other cases, has proved itself unworthy of any such new powers.

This is a regulator which perpetuates a failed, adversarial, discriminatory culture, leaving hospital doctors facing years of uncertainty before their case is finally heard and where the price of this system is measured in the number of suicides each year.

HCSA has no faith that the GMC has the ability, inclination or leadership to correct these failures.

We are of the view that the regulator should be placed in “special measures” and that the current leadership should give way to allow for appropriate remedial action which is so urgently required.

We also reiterate our belief that the NHS has a problem with institutional racism, and this latest case underlines the need for an independent review into factors which mean BAME doctors remain lower paid and less able to progress than their white colleagues.

We believe that this process will also shine a light into the systemic factors which have created the stark imbalance in the prospect of disciplinary proceedings based on a doctor’s skin colour and background.