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GP trainees set for more chances to pass MRCGP after row over failure rates

Exclusive: The RCGP is considering extending the number of chances GP trainees are given to pass the MRCGP and extending the support given to international medical graduates in an attempt to defuse a growing row over their high failure rates.

Pulse has learnt the College said it will consider allowing graduates to take six attempts - rather than the four it currently allows – following a crunch meeting with the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin and the British International Doctors Association yesterday.

The meeting came after Pulse revealed that BAPIO was taking legal advice over ‘huge’ differential pass rates between international and UK GP trainees in the new MRCGP, introduced in 2010.

The latest available figures show that, in 2010/11, the failure rate for international graduates taking the CSA component of the MRCGP was 63%, compared with 9% of UK graduates.

An internal email sent after the meeting by BAPIO – and obtained by Pulse – reveals the RCGP ruled out giving any further opportunities to trainees who have already failed the exam four times, and said there would not be an alternative to the clinical skills assessment method of examination, which has been largely responsible for the low pass rates of IMGs and BME doctors.

But the College did say it was ‘keen to collaborate with BAPIO in running courses and providing support to trainees’, it will look into the ‘accountability of trainers’ and has invited BAPIO to observe the CSA.

According to the email, the College also offered ‘continued discussion and possibly looking in to other demands in due course’.

BAPIO said that it was not ruling out legal action and will fundraise to ‘continue to have legal option’, in an email to members. It is also holding an emergency meeting to discuss the issue later this month.

The email said: ‘[The RCGP was] interested in what BAPIO‘s members have faced .There was a lots of civilised discussion for about three hours.

‘They are very keen to continue talking and we were interested in urgent action.’

 Dr Ramesh Metha, BAPIO chair and a consultant, told Pulse the discussions with the College were ‘robust’.

A joint statement by RGCP, BIDA and BAPIO said: ‘Representatives from the RCGP, BAPIO and BIDA have met to discuss matters of concern relating to differential pass rates in the MRCGP Clinical Skills Assessment. All three parties acknowledged that there were a number of factors contributing to the lower pass rates of candidates with overseas Primary Medical Qualifications.

‘The College recognises the seriousness of issues raised and some suggestions for further action have already been agreed. Another meeting will be held in the New Year to review the situation to which a senior representative of COGPED (Committee of GP Education Directors) will also be invited. At that meeting we hope to explore issues in more detail and agree the next steps in the future to support overseas doctors, ensure demonstrably transparent and fair processes and overall help to improve their pass rates in the CSA.’


Story updated 12pm Thursday 13 December