Tackling disadvantage in medical education

Published 07/03/2023

On 2 March the General Medical Council (GMC) published a report of the latest data on the progression of doctors in postgraduate medical training across the UK. We welcome the report, which provides more detail than in previous years and gives valuable insights into outcomes and experiences of doctors from different backgrounds.  

The GMC data show persistent inequalities, particularly in relation to poorer outcomes for UK graduates of black or black British heritage, who, on average, are less likely to receive an offer when applying for specialty training than other UK-qualified groups and to have lower pass rates in specialty exams. The Faculty has published data on an individual’s success in obtaining a National Training Number in ICM based on their protected characteristics. We recognise from the GMC data that across the profession significant inequalities remain evident for doctors from other ethnic minority groups, disabled doctors, and those from a lower socioeconomic background. The Faculty remains vigilant and recognises the need for further work on our part.

It is of particular concern that no progress has been made in reducing the attainment gap between doctors of different ethnicities as well as gender. It is clear that all of us working in medical education need to consider what additional action we can take to change this. Intensive Care Medicine (ICM) is a specialty founded on inclusivity of professional backgrounds; it is vital that we weto address other persistent inequalities that are having a detrimental impact on individual doctors and on the profession as a whole.  

At the Faculty , we are committed to working for change.  Action we are taking includes:  

  • Investigating the impact of gender, ethnicity and education background on exam performance to provide a better understanding of the factors affecting differential attainment in intensive care.  
  • Further increasing diversity among our examiners. We are committed to ensuring our examiner pool is representative and inclusive. The recent independent review concluded that we have made some good progress in this area, and we will continue to make it a priority. We ensure that all our examiners undertake examination-specific diversity training, including in recognising unconscious bias and appreciate the professionalism of our examiners in upholding our examiner code of conduct. 
  • Collecting equality, diversity, and inclusion data from our membership so that we can improve our understanding of inequalities in our specialty and in its leadership positions.  
  • Examining and understanding the data we have recently collected from our annual census on the impact of an individual’s protected characteristics on their appointment to clinical director and clinical leadership roles within ICM.   
  • Learning from emerging best practice established by other organisations within medical education, for example those that are identified in the GMC report.  

We recognise that reducing inequalities within our specialty and the wider profession is a long-term challenge. But we  want to assure members that our focus on advocating for and delivering equality, diversity and inclusion within the Faculty  is fundamentally important to us.

Dr Daniele Bryden, Dean
Dr Jack Parry-Jones, Vice Dean