BMA backs surgeon’s race discrimination case

by Peter Blackburn

The BMA is supporting the legal case of a surgeon found to have been racially discriminated against by the GMC.

Location: England
Published: Wednesday 25 August 2021
surgeon omer karim

Omer Karim recently won an employment tribunal claim against the GMC with the tribunal upholding his claim that the GMC had racially discriminated against him.

The GMC has now lodged an appeal against that decision and the BMA is to fund Mr Karim’s legal costs. 

Mr Karim was a consultant urological surgeon at Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (now the Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust).

During his time there the trust made several investigations into his conduct, eventually referring him to the GMC. After almost four years of investigations, the GMC subjected him to a fitness-to-practice tribunal. That tribunal then determined Mr Karim had done nothing wrong.

Mr Karim argued that, while the investigations into his conduct continued for years, similar complaints against a white colleague were quickly dropped. In August 2018, Mr Karim brought claims against the GMC, including a claim of direct race discrimination – and an employment tribunal found in his favour. 

Devastated life

2 surgeon omer karim KARIM: 'Told the truth'

In June of this year the employment tribunal judgement commented it was concerned 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’.

The judgement also said the GMC was ‘looking for material to support allegations against Mr Karim, rather than fairly assessing matters presented’.

Mr Karim said: ‘I have been a member of the BMA for nearly 38 years and to have the BMA’s support going forward and defending my win is very important to me. My professional and personal life was devastated in 2014 simply because I stood up and told the truth. I spoke out in support of patient care at the hospital and, as a result, I was victimised by the trust. I was penalised for not being a white doctor and the impact on mine and my family’s life has been catastrophic.

‘In my opinion, the GMC lacks insight and for it to appeal a judgement from an independent tribunal merely adds insult to injury. Ethnic minority doctors are already disadvantaged by being referred by their employers to the GMC more than twice as often as their white counterparts. Even the GMC’s own commissioned Fair to Refer report, published in 2019 said as much.'

Mr Karim added: ‘Four in 10 doctors in the UK are from minority ethnic backgrounds. It’s totally unacceptable that doctors, like me, who give so much to the NHS and without whom our health service could not function, should feel that the dice are loaded against us both at work and by our regulator, the GMC.’

An in-depth feature on Mr Karim's case will appear in the September issue of the BMA's The Doctor magazine

(images by Sarah Turton)

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