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GMC plans to tighten rules on GP training

By Ian Quinn

The GMC is planning to bring in new limits on the number of times GPs in training can sit the MRCGP qualifying exam, as it plans a new sweeping clampdown on the regulation of future GPs.

The council is considering introducing regulations which could tighten the voluntary limit of four attempts, brought in by the RCGP last summer and is also looking at bringing in a maximum time for how long the qualifications of successful candidates remain valid.

Its move comes after Pulse revealed last week the GMC had rubber stamped moves by the RCGP to introduce new rules which the College knew would see a major fall in the pass rate for the clinical skills assessment, despite the move breaching GMC rules.

The crackdown has sparked major controversy in the profession, with some GPs in support but some claiming it is unfair, but the GMC has made it clear it is just the beginning of a much wider reaching series of change to weed out poor performers.

Between November and December almost one in ten candidates who sat the CSA exam were making their fourth attempt or more. This was despite the limit of four attempts for both the CSA and the Applied Knowledge Test (AKT) the RCGP brought in last August, as there were exceptions agreed for those who began their training before August 2009.

The GMC said it would be conducting a ‘a comprehensive review of its standards for curricula and assessment systems’ to address issues raised about the quality of candidates since it took over responsibility for GP training last year.

Plans to regulate the number of exam attempts were welcomed by Dr Una Coales, a GP in Stockwell, who said: ‘There should be a limit on a licensing exam. In the US, the limit is three times and the College has set a limit of four times for the MRCGP exam.’

But she said she believed exam passes should be valid ‘indefinitely’

GMC chief executive, Niall Dickson, said: ‘The GMC is responsible for making sure that the curricula and assessment systems developed by the RCGP and the other colleges meet our standards.

‘Like the College, we are committed to ensuring that only those doctors with the appropriate level of skills and expertise pass the exam and can practise as GPs and that we continue to improve the standards of education and training for the benefit of patients and trainees.’

Training practice