Andrea Callender, the GMC’s Head of Diversity, talks about why it’s important that we understand even more about the diversity of the UK’s medical profession and how doctors can help us with this in 2016.

Doctors giving us diversity information on their ethnic background, age and gender has allowed us to understand how our work affects different groups of doctors who share particular characteristics.

There’s still much more for us to get our heads around, and we’re taking a significant step forward. As of 18 January 2016, doctors will be able to give us information about other characteristics defined in equality legislation: religion and belief, sexual orientation and disability. Doctors can update this information through their private GMC online account, if they choose to do so.

Comings and goings: doctors gaining and giving up a UK licence to practise during 2010-13
Comings and goings: doctors gaining and giving up a UK licence to practise during 2010-13

Why do we want more diversity information from doctors?

Organisations collect this kind of data for two main reasons: a desire to understand the issues that may be affecting a particular group of people; and to explore whether their work is having unintended consequences on some people. It’s one of the building blocks for ensuring that everyone is being treated fairly.

Doctors are in control of whether they choose to give us this personal data or not.

We want to understand more about the make-up of the medical profession in the UK and what this could mean for the future. The latest The state of medical education and practice in the UK report shows how diversity data has helped us to identify an increasing reliance on older doctors and non-UK graduates in specialities such as psychiatry and emergency medicine.

Four largest specialties in 2014 by ethnicity and primary medical qualification.
Four largest specialties in 2014 by ethnicity and primary medical qualification.

Plus, we have highlighted trends for more male than female doctors involved in our fitness to practise procedures, and more Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) doctors who qualify in the UK.

We’ve already identified some serious challenges and differences in outcomes for particular groups of doctors associated with our work.

We’ve identified some serious challenges and differences in outcomes for particular groups of doctors associated with our work. For example, we’re looking into the different patterns in pass rates for some doctors in postgraduate medical education. From our early findings [PDF], we know a lot more about how ethnicity, gender and place of primary medical qualification can impact on exam and assessment results.

And we’ve commissioned more extensive research on this, aiming to shed some light on what we and others might do to address these differentials. Having more diversity data helps to fill in the picture about some of the things that might be influencing a doctor’s practice.

We’re pleased that we have the support of other organisations to introduce this new option, including The Gay and Lesbian Association of Doctors and Dentists (GLADD):

We hope that this step will lead to improved equality and diversity services and fairness for GMC registered doctors.

‘We welcome the news that the GMC will be monitoring more protected characteristics, including sexual orientation. There is a lack of evidence about the needs and experiences of the LGBT population; LGBT doctors and medical students are no exception to this. Monitoring allows organisations to spot trends and target these with appropriate resources. We hope that this step will lead to improved equality and diversity services and fairness for GMC registered doctors.’

Will this be mandatory?

No, doctors are in control of whether they choose to give us this personal data or not. Access to this data will be restricted and it will not be displayed on our online medical register. No individual doctor will be identifiable in any reporting on the figures.

There’s more information and some FAQs on our new dedicated webpages. Take a look or ask me a question in the space below – I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have about why we are making these changes.

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