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Medical students to have foundation places removed

A number of medical students who had been been confirmed on foundation programmes may have those places taken away after marking errors were found in the tests that determine where they will spend their first years in training.

More than 7,200 medical students this week received their Situational Judgement Test (SJT) results and were told where they will be undertaking their two year foundation programme, which is a precursor to deciding on whether to become a general practice trainee or specialise as a hospital doctor. Almost 300 students were placed on a reserve list because of oversubscription.

However, the UK Foundation Programme Office (UKFPO), which manages the SJT test, wrote to students yesterday alerting them to an error in the computerised scoring of the test.

The UKFPO has said it will manually mark all affected tests. However, it has warned that some students’ scores may increase, meaning the computer algorithm that matches final years with foundation schools may have to be re-run.

This means that some students could have their place on a foundation programme taken away, some could be assigned to a different school, while those on the reserved list could be offered a place.

The letter from the UKFPO sent to students said: ‘The Medical Schools Council (MSC) has brought to the attention of the UK Foundation Programme Office (UKFPO) a potential error in the scanning process of the Situational Judgement Test answer sheets that may have affected the scores for some applicants.

‘Due to the nature of the potential issue, the UKFPO has made the decision to manually remark all the affected answer sheets. It is possible that some SJT scores will be increased as a consequence of the manual check, and if this is the case, the UKFPO may have to re-run the allocation algorithm.

‘Please be assured that the decision to re-run the algorithm will not be taken lightly, but if any discrepancy in scores is detected, then it will be the fairest and most transparent way of ensuring that any applicants who received a lower mark because of this error are awarded the marks they deserve.’

The UKFPO said it ‘does not underestimate’ the stress this is causing applicants and will keep applicants informed by email over the next few days.

If the algorithm has to be re-run they expect applicants to receive their new test scores by the end of next week, it added.

Meanwhile, the BMA has called for the UKFPO to set-up a helpline for affected students, a clear timetable for next steps, and for assurances that students will not lose out financially as a result of receiving their first offer.

It also wants a review of the marking process so that these mistakes are not repeated.