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RCGP fends off employment tribunal challenge to MRCGP exam

Exclusive The RCGP has staved off a challenge to take them to an employment tribunal over the performance of international medical graduates in the MRCGP exam.

A ruling published this month found that the RCGP was not a ‘service provider’ under the terms of the Equality Act, meaning that an employment tribunal had no jurisdiction in the matter.

Instead, a judge said the forthcoming judicial review into the MRCGP exam hearing in April was the appropriate forum for deciding whether the college was guilty of ‘direct or indirect discrimination’.

The ruling, made by the Manchester employment tribunal, found against 20 trainees – represented by Medic Law –  who argued that the two bodies should have to answer cases at tribunal level, which could have opened the floodgates for numerous individuals who have been thrown out of training to make financial claims against them.

The 20 trainees claimed that the RCGP and GMC were guilty of ‘direct and indirect discrimination’ by continuing to use the controversial clinicial skills assessment as part of the MRCGP exam, which resulted in them being thrown out of training due to multiple failed attempts.

But employment Judge [Carol] Porter ruled that the RCGP was not a ‘service provider’ under the terms of the Equality Act, meaning that the employment tribunal had no jurisdiction in the matter.

The ruling said: ‘On balance I find the claim that against the RCGP as a service provider within the meaning of section 55 of the Equality Act 2010 has no reasonable chance of success.’

She also found that claims against the GMC would not succeed in the employment tribunal. The ruling stated: ‘The GMC has no involvement in the actual training. In all circumstances I find that this part of the claim has no reasonable prospect of success. Further, and in the alternative, it is not in the interest of justice, it is not proportionate, it is against the overriding objective, to allow the GMC to remain as a party of these proceedings.’

However, Judge Porter also said she had ‘considerable sympathy’ for the claimants’ argument that ‘the GMC cannot have their cake and eat it, cannot avoid being a party to a discrimination claim in the Administrative Court by asserting there that it is better for discrimination to be dealt with in the employment tribunal, but now to assert that such a discrimination claim cannot be dealt with in the employment tribunal but must be dealt with by the Administrative Court by way of judicial review’.

The judge said she will deal with the deaneries’ application to strike out the claims at a later date, with a ruling expected this week.

The differences in failure rates between UK graduates and international medical graduates taking the exam has been the subject of a long-running row, which is set to culminate in the judicial review hearing in April. But the RCGP says the claims ‘have no merit’, and that there is no evidence that examiners mark people from ethnic minorities differently simply because of their ethnicity.