New fairness checks on our referral form

From today, you’ll need to provide some additional information when you refer a doctor to us. This is part of our work with others to address the disproportionate pattern of fitness to practise referrals we receive from employers. 

When you complete the form through GMC Connect and our website, you’ll now need to confirm steps you’ve taken to make sure the referral is fair and inclusive. The three new questions prompt you to consider: 

  • whether any environmental pressures or systemic issues might have contributed to the concern
  • where the doctor qualified overseas, any induction provided on how to respond to concerns. And what support has been offered to help them improve their understanding and knowledge since the concerns were identified. 
  • what impartial checks you’ve made to ensure the referral is fair and inclusive. 

We’ve also updated our referral guidance for responsible officers with the steps you should take to make sure referrals are fair. It also explains how much detail you should give when answering these questions. 

Addressing issues at an earlier stage 

The new questions address one of the recommendations in the 2019 ‘Fair to Refer?’ report, which we commissioned to better understand why ethnic minority doctors and doctors who qualified overseas are overrepresented in our fitness to practise processes. The report found that BME doctors are referred to us by employers at twice the rate of white doctors. This is particularly concerning because a much higher proportion of employer referrals result in an investigation.

As well as refreshing our referral process, we’ve also recently started a programme of meetings with responsible officers to better understand local cultures, with topics including induction and learning cultures. As part of these discussions, we’ll explore any existing actions or improvement plans, and gather examples of good practice that can be shared across the system.

We hope our engagement with your teams will help to create more supportive environments that intervene earlier to give doctors the local support they need. This forms part of our work with partners across our healthcare systems to address key areas of inequality and build a better supported, more sustainable workforce. We will evaluate how effective the new questions have been as we review our progress towards these targets.

Making sure our updated referral form works in practice

We’ve developed the updated questions and guidance together with responsible officers, and completed a successful three-month pilot of the updated referral form with several designated bodies. 

As always, we want to make sure this process works for you and your teams and we’ll continue to review how the new questions work in practice. If you have any feedback or questions about the updated form or guidance, please get in touch with your employer liaison adviser