GP returners in Wales are being asked to re-sit the Applied Knowledge Test (AKT) to demonstrate their ability to practice, despite reported opposition from both the RCGP and the GPC.
The policy has been implemented by the Welsh Health Board, which has said doctors who have taken a career break, often for maternity leave, must re-sit the exam before they can return to practice.
It comes after Pulse revealed last year how draconian' new requirements added to returner schemes in England were unfairly discouraging some GPs from returning to work from abroad.
The latest move has been criticised by GPC Wales, which said in its newsletter: ‘Nowhere else in the profession are doctors asked to re-pass exams to return to the workforce and we have raised this centrally with RCGP who are equally unhappy in the use of a test for a cohort of doctors at a stage in their career where it was never intended to be used.'
Dr David Bailey, chair of GPC Wales and a GP in Trethomas, said: ‘It's perfectly reasonable that there should be a process to make sure they are up to speed, supervised by an approved trainer. But we do not think it is a legitimate use of an exam, used to test 28 year olds coming into the profession for the first time, to test older people who have completed training.'
A spokesperson for the deanery confirmed that returners were required to sit the test, to help form on objective assessment. ‘At the end of a placement progress with these assessments is submitted to the health board with a trainer's report which helps the health board make a decision over whether to permanently include the doctor on the medical performers list,' the spokesperson added.
‘Our experience has shown the health boards look at the outcome of these assessments globally and failure of the AKT or any other element does not always result in a decision not to include on the medical performers list.'
Dr Bailey welcomed the deanery's indication that it would fund all returners' training, which will be confirmed once the deanery's budget had been set.
The RCGP was unable to respond by the time of publication.