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Calls for urgent action to bring 1,500 GP trainees out of exam limbo

The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) has called for temporary measures to release 1,500 GP trainees stuck in limbo due to exam cancellations.

The organisation has written to the RCGP suggesting that ‘given these circumstances where there is no immediate possibility of resumption of CSA and AKT’, there ‘appears to be only one logical and pragmatic approach i.e. reverting to summative assessment that relies on assessments carried out at workplace and trainer reports’.

The letter, from BAPIO president Dr Ramesh Mehta, said this comes as ‘calls for an alternative format to the current MRCGP are not new’.

He said: ‘This should allow a majority of the trainees to enter the workforce as fully qualified GPs and lead to more than 1,500 GPs to progress and support primary care in the near future when they will be sorely required to pick up the pieces of this pandemic not only with the Covid-related issues, but even more so with all other illnesses that have been overshadowed by the diversion of resources – cancer and mental health to name just a couple.’

He argued that ‘a similar format’ could also ‘give the profession access to another nearly 500 GPs’.

‘We know that there is this large cohort of GPs who have been released from training for not being able to pass AKT or CSA despite having demonstrated capabilities to the satisfaction of their trainers. Some of them had been allowed a re-enter training to clear their examinations and their futures hang in balance too. Many have not been allowed that opportunity either,’ the letter said.

Dr Mehta continued: ‘An invaluable pool of skills and resource especially in these critical times is a huge waste and we owe it to our public and patients to support them to get back into mainstream primary care.’

Dr Kamal Sidhu, chair of BAPIO’s GP forum and a GP trainer in County Durham, told Pulse: ‘It is a very unfortunate situation when we have so many GP registrars whose future is uncertain.

‘We hope that in these very exceptional times, the college will take a lead on a vey realistic approach in line with the precedents set so far by many other NHS organisations as outlined in the letter.

‘We also must ensure that no GP registrar must be left out of job as a result of the pandemic changes.’

A recent update from RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall and vice chair of professional development Dr Michael Mulholland said: ‘As you may know, the College has no direct control over either the training programme nor entry onto the GP register, and so most of the decisions that need to be made do not fall within our gift alone.

‘However, we are very involved in discussions and decision-making about this, as the standards of training, and the experience of trainees, are of paramount concern to us and we are keen to find a solution and to be part of managing this difficult situation in a way that supports trainees and protects patients.’

The RCGP’s associate in training (AiT) community has also conducted a survey of trainees, concluding that 78% are opposed to extensions to training as a solution for exam cancellations.

Meanwhile, a statement from Health Education England and the health training bodies in the devolved nations, published yesterday, said, regarding exam cancellations: ‘We are aware that these developments have created additional uncertainty for you at a time of generally heightened concern.

‘We have been working hard with the RCGP, the GMC, the BMA, NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care to determine a way forward.’

The letter said they would communicate further ‘as soon as a solution is found’.