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Mon 10 Sep 2007 04:00 AM

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GMC inquiry into foreign doctors

An investigation has been launched to discover why foreign-trained doctors are more likely to face disciplinary action in the UK than their home-trained peers.

An investigation has been launched to discover why foreign-trained doctors are more likely to face disciplinary action in the UK than their home-trained peers.

Figures released by the General Medical Council last month revealed that of the 3086 complaints lodged against doctors in 2006, where the doctor's country of training was known, nearly 40% referred to overseas-trained doctors.

Overseas-trained doctors were also twice as likely to progress to a full disciplinary hearing than UK graduates. Of the 54 doctors struck off the medical register last year, 35 of them had trained abroad.

A spokeswoman for the GMC conceded that overseas-trained doctors were "disproportionately represented" in its "fitness-to-practice" statistics, but said it was still not clear why this was."What we are doing is looking at where the issues might be," she said.

"The studies are designed to help understand the experiences of doctors from different backgrounds and the contexts within which concerns about doctors are referred to us."

The GMC first commissioned research into the findings last November, after 2005 statistics revealed a similar divide. The UK-based Economic and Science Research Council has also begun a number of research projects prompted by the findings, examining the links between training, career transitions and medical performance.

The GMC notes that the research detailing the experiences of UK, EU, and non-EU medical graduates suggest "performance problems occurring as a result of the transition process, from . . . one country to another, from one stage of training to another, and so on."

The GMC says that in addition to the ongoing research it is seeking to commission a fellowship "to explore equality and diversity issues relating to our fitness-to-practice procedures."
Initial results are expected to be released in 2009.

The last major report into the relationship between overseas doctors and the GMC was written by the Policy Studies Institute seven years ago, following years of complaints that ethnic origin was a factor in the outcome of disciplinary procedures.

Its author, Isobel Allen, concluded that while racial and cultural differences might be a factor in the differences, there was no evidence of overt discrimination in policies.

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