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From MRCGP with distinction to the dole office!

Newly-qualified GP Dr Sarah Wright found herself out of work after falling foul of the certification system – here she offers advice to registrars on how to avoid ending up in the same boat

As GP registrars we all work hard and look forward to completing this challenging year successfully, as fully qualified GPs. After joining the West Midlands vocational training scheme (VTS) in August 2004 I was ecstatic at achieving MRCGP with distinction in

July 2006 with a salaried post in the bag at my training practice to step into.

I would not have believed it possible that three months later I would be claiming benefits at the job centre.

Like most doctors, I consider myself to be well-organised and efficient at jumping through hoops, but I underestimated the intricacies of the different certification pro-cesses and took the wrong route. Amid the plethora of deadlines and exams I assumed that certification was the least of my worries. In hindsight, the recent changes to the certification process should have been a warning for me to double-check I was not making a mistake.

I went wrong by applying for a certificate of completion of training (CCT) via the RCGP article 10 route, instead of the article 11 route via the Postgraduate Medical Education Training Board (PMETB). I believed the prior JCPTGP approval for training granted for an SHO post I did in Australia meant it was possible to apply for a standard CCT.

One big problem is getting VTR forms for hospital posts signed off in time and before the registrar year. Silly mistakes like not having a hospital stamp, or correct dates, will cause all the paperwork to be rejected and many repeated cycles of application, and in the long term not getting a CCT in time.

The system itself is far from perfect. The PMETB has been criticised by the GPC and the RCGP for delays in awarding CCTs to registrars. Inadequate advice and communication between the PMETB and registrars is also a problem. Dr Andrew Thomson, chair of the BMA's GP registrar subcommittee, said: 'One of the most significant improvements the PMETB could make would be to improve their relationship with trainees through a more clear and robust advice system.'

He suggested that reminders at the appropriate stages of the GP registrar year through targeted mailing would be one way of improving the existing system.

Catalogue of frustrations

Fortunately for me I was granted a two-month registrar extension post by my deanery until the end of September, something that cannot be assumed since funding is often unavailable. Less fortunate has been a catalogue of frustrations since then, which have led to me having no income for seven weeks at the time of writing.

Various factors, like receiving the wrong advice from the deanery, a promising temporary SHO post that fell through and repetitious CRB checks for locum agencies, has forced me to turn to the state for benefits.

This episode has cost me around £10,000 through lost income and PMETB fees and I have had to rely on savings to keep up with my financial commitments. My silver lining, however, has been the support of my training practice, which is keeping my job open for me while this fiasco is resolved.

People tell me I will look back on this and laugh, but believe me, if it happens to you, it is not a laughing matter.

Sarah Wright was finally granted certification shortly before Christmas and is back working as a salaried GP at her old training practice in Birmingham

Useful contacts

1 RCGP Certification Unit, 1st Floor, 19 Buckingham Street,London WC2N 6EF; Tel: +44 (0)20 7930 7228 (inquiry helpline 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday).Fax: 020 7930 7224.


2 Postgraduate Medical Education Training Board, 7th Floor Hercules House, London SE1 7DU. Tel: 020 7160 6100 (general inquiries only.

Tel: 020 7160 6187 (certification inquiries). Fax: 020 7160 6102.E-mail: (general inquiries). E-mail: (inquiries about GP CCT applications). E-mail: (inquiries about Article 11 applications).

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