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A dyslexic GP’s problems with the CSA

I’m hugely dyslexic, and was diagnosed after failing the AKT three times. My trainer at Health Education England (HEE) North East said that I should get the assessment, or they wouldn’t let me sit the exam.

I passed the CSA the second time, and it wasn’t so hard for me.

We started looking at different aspects of it when I was diagnosed. The educational psychologist said that we need to raise this awareness, so I now talk to incumbent GP trainees as a start, to make them aware that they should speak to their supervisor and get an assessment if they also have these problems.

It’s not just the AKT and the CSA. The issue we found was with training too – doing the portfolio, seeing patients and doing calls. It’s about learning strategies and identifying those issues, because dyslexia is very different across the board.

There’s a lot of distraction with the CSA. You’ve got two people sitting looking at you, you’ve got a camera going, you’ve got a patient who you know is an actor… Distraction is one of the main struggles for people with dyslexia.

Distraction is one of the main struggles for people with dyslexia

The reason is the social background. I’m Asian, and my mum is extremely educated, but when I said that I’m dyslexic, she said: ‘Oh, isn’t that a mental illness?’

It’s still perceived as a mental illness in parts of India, as it’s a taboo.

Increasing awareness amongst trainers and trainees is what we’re doing at HEE North East – telling trainees: ‘If this happens, then look, you’re going to spend so much money, your work-life balance is completely jeopardised and your family suffers, so it’s a matter of getting an assessment and getting help to pass the exam.’

In my case, my trainer asked how I was feeling, but didn’t even know what to say or do, because she wasn’t trained in that area. This year, we are looking at doing a workshop, raising awareness with trainers.

HEE North East also ensured that I had an educational psychologist to see me thorough the exam process. I already had the strategies, but this is about honing them and dealing with the anxiety and stress, because they really affect people with dyslexia.

In my case, I got 25% extra time and a separate room. People with dyslexia also often write on a lot of paper, so I got this, as well as bigger and coloured fonts, because a lot of us also deal with number issues with colours. For example, four is a green and two is a red. It sounds bizarre, but it works. 

Dr Sudeshna Sar is a GP in Northumberland