Fairness of RCGP exam under review

AS many as 50 pending employment tribunals relate to concerns over the fairness of the clinical skills assessment in the RCGP membership exam.

The figure was highlighted during a judicial review of the CSA which was launched by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO). BAPIO are concerned about the significant difference in pass rates between international and UK medical graduates.

A total of 65.3 per cent of international medical graduates failed their first attempt at the CSA in 2011-2012. This is compared to just 9.9 per cent of UK graduates. Figures from previous years show similar differences in pass rates.

BAPIO solicitors have argued that the variations “demonstrate unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010", and warn that candidates are vulnerable to bias during face-to-face assessments in which it appears that "a physician’s intellectual ability is judged on the basis of how well he/she speaks native English".

In a preliminary hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on October 18, Mrs Justice Patterson ruled that it was arguable that the GMC "had failed in its duties with regards to equality legislation".

But she said that while the GMC would not have to face allegations of direct or indirect discrimination, the regulator will have to defend its actions over the differential pass rates between UK and international medical graduates in a judicial review likely to be heard in the new year.

Dr Ramesh Mehta, president of BAPIO, told the BBC that "hundreds of doctors' careers have been damaged because they have repeatedly failed the CSA exam."

The RCGP, which sets the exams, denies they are unfair.

College chair Dr Clare Gerada said: “We are shocked and bemused that on the very day that Professor Esmail’s official and independent GMC investigation report found no evidence of discrimination, the same author published a contradictory paper that misleadingly suggested we may be guilty of bias."

In a statement, the RCGP said: "It is our job to ensure that, through a fair process, all of the doctors who qualify as GPs meet the requisite standards for ensuring safe patient care. That is what the public expects of us, and that is what we deliver."

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