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Health education bosses launch second-chance scheme for failed GP trainees

GP trainees who left training having failed at least one of their exams will be given another chance under the a new Health Education England scheme.

The new ‘Targeted GP Training’ scheme will allow GP trainees to re-enter training if they left GP training between January 2010 and January 2018 with satisfactory Work Place Based Assessments but only one of two required assessments.

This comes after Pulse revealed in 2016 education bosses were planning a major shake-up of GP recruitment to give ‘targeted’ support to trainees who previously failed to complete entry requirements.

While the proposed scheme suggested it would help specialists wishing to retrain in general practice, the finalised program will focus on encouraging GP trainees to re-enter training.

Instead, HEE has said other doctors looking for a career change into general practice ‘will now be considered through the existing recruitment processes’. 

The HEE guide to the scheme has said that the RGCP is looking at how the targeted scheme will impact the number of exam attempts, with previous reports suggesting a ‘sixth attempt’ would be beneficial to trainees.

But the HEE document said: ‘It is likely that the current additional fifth attempt permitted outside training would ceased to be offered with any increase in exam attempts.’

The scheme will begin recruiting in August 2018 with the first cohort to begin the scheme in February 2019.

BMA GP committee workforce, education and training, policy lead Dr Helena McKeown said the targeted training is ‘welcome’ and will begin ‘removing the barriers for some doctors to re-enter training’.

She said: ‘Whilst it is vital that the bar for qualifying remains at an appropriate level, targeted support of this kind will give those doctors, who for various reasons have been unsuccessful in initial assessments, the opportunity to develop and gain the competencies they need to become independent practitioners in the future.’

GP trainees are now also able to apply for a 12-month extension to their GP training instead of just six months.

Professor Simon Gregory, national lead on GP specialty training, said: ‘The introduction in January 2018 of up to a year has meant that we don’t end up losing trainees simply because they needed a little bit of extra time on one of the components of training.’

The move by education bosses comes as GP numbers continue to decline with 219 full time equivalent GPs leaving the workforce in the three months leading up to December 2017.

Meanwhile, HEE has recruited the highest ever number of GP trainees, but still fell short of the long-standing target of 3,250 graduates a year.

An embattled exam

Pulse revealed in 2016 that the RCGP estimates said ‘around 400’ potential GPs were trapped in MRCGP limbo after being unable to pass clinical skills assessment component.

Candidates can typically only have four attempts at the exam and are then unable to complete the MRCGP – a pre-requisite for receiving a CCT.

Representatives had met with the College to argue these doctors could support the GP workforce if they were given further supported training time before taking an alternative assessment like the CEGPR.

But the College had pointed out that many of these doctors already struggle to meet ‘equivalence’ standards for clinical skills and knowledge, and said an overhaul would require regulatory change.

This followed the row over the differential pass rates between white and black and minority ethnic doctors taking the CSA, which led to the college undergoing a judicial review.

The court ruled the MRCGP was lawful but urged the RCGP to take action around the number of BME doctors and international medical graduates failing the exam.