General Medical Council discriminated against Muslim doctor

The General Medical Council (GMC) has been found to have racially discriminated against a Muslim doctor of African and European heritage.

In giving its ruling, the Employment Tribunal referred to the high number of complaints against ethnic minority staff and said discrimination could be infecting the way the GMC dealt with such cases.

The case involved Dr Omar Karim, who in 2013 was a consultant urologist at Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which has now become the Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust.

In 2014, the trust referred Mr Karim to the GMC following various allegations against him.

In March 2015, restrictions were placed on his practice, pending the outcome of the GMC’s investigation.

These restrictions had a severe effect on Mr Karim’s surgical practice. They were lifted five months later. However, his case was not heard until three years later. 

None of the allegations against Mr Karim related to his clinical performance or his competence.

A Fitness to Practice hearing eventually took place in 2018, when Mr Karim’s evidence was accepted in full, and he was cleared of all allegations of misconduct.

The Employment Tribunal ruled that the way Mr Karim’s case was handled by the GMC and the time it took to deal with it amounted to race discrimination. 

The tribunal noted that the GMC continued the investigation against Mr Karim yet ended a similar investigation into the conduct of white doctor.

The delay of nearly four years was not necessary for justice to be done and had caused Mr Karim unnecessary stress.

The tribunal said that the GMC seemed to be “looking for material to support allegations . . . rather than fairly assessing matters”.

Referring to the way the investigation against the white doctor was dropped while Mr Karim’s continued the tribunal said: “We do not consider there has been a credible explanation for the difference.”

The tribunal referred to statistics showing that UK graduate ethnic minority “doctors are 50% more likely to get a sanction or warning than white doctors”.

It said it was “concerned that there was a level of complacency about the operation of discrimination in the work of GMC or that there might be discrimination infecting the referral process.”

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