AN independent review has been set up to look into the Membership of the Royal College of GPs exam results, the General Medical Council has announced.
The move comes in light of recent figures that showed significantly higher failure rates for international graduates sitting the exam, compared to UK graduates.
The GMC said that in response to these “serious concerns”, it has commissioned an independent data review of MRCGP pass rates for different groups of medical graduates.
The review will be led by Professor Aneez Esmail, professor of general practice at the University of Manchester and a leading UK researcher into racism in the NHS. He will look at all applied knowledge test (AKT) and clinical skills assessment (CSA) sittings from October 2010 to December 2012. The review will also consider earlier data from 2007 to 2010 when the process and approach to marking borderline candidates for the MRCGP was changed.
The report is due to be completed by June 30 and is expected to be published late summer.
Discussions on the issue have been ongoing between the RCGP, the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) and the British International Doctors Association (BIDA). BAPIO president Dr Ramesh Mehta said the organisation is seeking a “definitive change to the flawed system of assessment” and would consider legal action to achieve this.
Figures from 2010-2011 showed the failure rate for international graduates taking the CSA was 63 per cent, compared with just nine per cent for UK graduates.
The College has said it is keen to work with BAPIO to resolve the issue. One suggested solution was to offer GP trainees six attempts at passing the exam rather than the current four, with greater support made available to international trainees.
GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: “This is a critical examination for doctors wishing to become GPs and it is vital that doctors, patients and employers have confidence that it is both fair and robust.
“Where serious questions have been raised, as they have in this case, it is right that we should look at them. The underlying causes for different pass rates among different groups of doctors are likely to be complex, but we are determined to understand this issue, which is why, as a first step, we have commissioned this independent review of the data.
“The exam, which is run by the Royal College, is approved by the GMC and we are committed to ensuring fairness across all of our work. If further work is required we will not hesitate to undertake it.”
RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada said: “The College welcomes this independent review and we are looking to undertake further, more detailed, research into the examination later in the year.”