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RCGP cancels CSA exam indefinitely due to coronavirus epidemic

The RCGP has cancelled all CSA exams for GP trainees indefinitely due to the outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19).

The clinical skills assessment (CSA) will no longer be running from tomorrow ‘until further notice’ and will be rescheduled once it can be run ‘safely and reliably’, the RCGP announced today.

GP leaders called on the RCGP and GMC to consider alternative assessment for current GP trainees so that their future does not ‘hang in balance’.

The RCGP said: ‘We have been following advice from the CMO and Government and were committed to running the CSA examination for as long as we could, while it was safe and responsible to do so, to help as many trainees as possible to complete their training.

‘However, the situation has now changed dramatically. The Government has advised against any non-essential travel, and trainees and examiners are finding it harder to leave their practices, while those with underlying health conditions have been advised to exercise caution and may decide to self-isolate.’

It added that examination fees will be carried over to rescheduled sittings of the assessment.

HEE head of school for general practice Janet Rutherford said there is ‘lots of national debate’ over the impact it will have on trainee’s completion of their training.

She said: ‘I can understand that this will be hugely disappointing to all those trainees expecting to take their CSA over the next few months. I am aware that there is lots of national debate at the moment between the GP deans as to what impact this will have on your Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) plans.’

Dr Chandra Kanneganti, BMA GP Committee policy lead on NHS England and chair of the British International Doctors Association, added that the RCGP is ‘right’ to cancel the CSA exams due to the Covid-19 ‘crisis’ but warned of the ‘huge impact’.

He said: ‘This will affect their planning on their next jobs, visa issues for International Medical Graduates (IMG) GP trainees and financial problems.

‘Some trainees are at risk of having their Applied Knowledge Test (AKT) pass date lapse for certification.’

He added: ‘In these extraordinary times I urge both RCGP and GMC to consider summative assessment for current GP trainees for at least 1 year for certification to become qualified GP.

‘We need well-trained GP trainees to support and it’s not fair for anyone to let their future hang in balance. I hope our health secretary Matt Hancock can exert pressure on both GMC and RCGP to come together for an immediate decision to offer GP trainees summative assessment to finish their current training for at least a year.’

BMA GP trainees subcommittee co-chairs Dr Sandesh Gulhane and Dr Lynn Lynn Hryhorskyj added their ‘concerns’ about where the move ‘leaves GP trainees who are just one step away from fully qualifying’.

They said: ‘Given the current situation, we recognise the risk that continuing the CSA in its present form poses to trainees, assessors and participants, and therefore understand the College’s decision to suspend the exam at this stage.

‘However, we recognise there will be many questions for trainees, some of whom will have already made arrangements to travel to London at their own expense. There will also be concerns about when exams will be rescheduled for and where the current situation leaves GP trainees who are just one step away from fully qualifying.’

They added: ‘Trainees should be reassured that the BMA is taking up all of these issues with the RCGP and GMC and we are seeking clarity over plans for the upcoming AKT exam, currently scheduled for the end of April.’

It comes as the GMC and HEE announced this week in a joint statement with the devolved nations’ medical education bodies that planned trainee rotations will be paused due to the outbreak.

Trainees will be asked to stay in their current placement unless rotation is ‘possible without creating issues’ in the local area, the statement added.

It also reiterated that some trainees may be ‘redeployed to areas of significant clinical need’.

In an email seen by Pulse, HEE told GP educators and practice managers today that trainees may be able to work remotely if self-isolating but not themselves unwell, provided there is ‘appropriate clinical supervision’.

Meanwhile, patients fit for discharge are to be moved out of hospital ‘urgently’ to free up beds in England, suggesting GPs will be left to care for them in the community.