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Lawyers give RCGP three weeks to sort CSA, or face legal action

Exclusive The RCGP is to be given three weeks’ notice before legal action will commence by lawyers representing an international doctors group, and also faces the prospect of being hauled up in front of employment tribunals in an escalation of the row over the MRCGP exam.

The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) has instructed its solicitors to write to the College and give it three week’s notice to ‘resolve the issue’ over the lower pass rates for international doctors and agree to its demands.

It has also asked legal representatives to write to trainees who have failed the clinical skills assessment exam four times and have been removed from training, to inform them that it will pay the legal fees for them to take the RCGP to an employment tribunal.

The legal action marks an escalation of the row over the pass rates of international medical graduates taking the clinical skills assessment (CSA) portion of the MRCGP exam, and comes despite ongoing negotiations between the RCGP and international doctors’ groups.

The RCGP said it was ‘disappointed’ that BAPIO had decided to proceed with legal action despite negotiations, and that it was seeking to work constructively with interested organisations.

The move comes after the GMC said it would launch an review into the failure rates of different groups of medical graduates taking the MRCGP and after the BMA also wrote to the College outlining its concerns.

BAPIO has already raised £33,000 for its legal fund to finance the tribunals and a possible judicial review.

In a letter to its members, BAPIO chair Dr Ramesh Mehta wrote: ‘BAPIO is supporting the launch of employment tribunal action for GP trainees who are already affected by the CSA issue.

‘BAPIO is continuing negotiations with RCGP and others. However our QC is writing to them with three weeks of notice to resolve the issue otherwise we will proceed with judicial review.’

BAPIO estimate that around 300 doctors have been kicked out of training for failing the CSA four times. However, the RCGP says it has identified 133 international medical graduates who have failed the CSA exam four times over the past five years.

Pulse has also received a letter from BAPIO to RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada spelling out what changes it wants to see, which include replacing the CSA with evaluations of video encounters with real patients and pathways for doctors who have been removed from training.  

Professor Gerada said: ‘I am very disappointed that they have chosen to do this, rather than have a dialogue instead about how we can do the best for the next generation of doctors and our patients.

‘Overall very few doctors who start training fail to obtain the certificate of completion of training and only a very very small number of GPs - approximately 1% per year of those that sit MRCGP - are released from training because of a failure to pass CSA alone.’

A spokesperson for the RCGP said: ‘Discussions are ongoing between the RCGP, BAPIO and BIDA. Another meeting has been arranged for 21 February and the College is keen to work constructively and collaboratively.’