Low MRCGP pass rate for minority doctors 'must be solved'

Doctors' leaders have called for a solution to the problem of lower pass rates for minority ethnic candidates in medical exams, warning the discrepancy is 'ruining lives'.

BMA: members back exam pass investigation
BMA: members back exam pass investigation

Delegates at the BMA annual representative meeting in Edinburgh voted for examination bodies to publish a breakdown of pass rates by 'characteristics protected under the Equalities Act', which include ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.

Doctors voted to congratulate organisations, such as the RCGP, which already publish such information.

But RCGP fellow Dr Surendra Kumar told the conference that while congratulating the college: ‘I do not condone in any way RCGP, or any other college, letting the processes go on which on face-value show elements of discrimination.’

Dr Kumar said: ‘This is a fact, that 38% of GP trainees are BME doctors; this is a fact the CSA examination pass rates are 91% for British white doctors and 36% for BME doctors.’

He condemned some BMA leaders who he claimed had raised questions over whether BME doctors were as good as their white colleagues.

‘There is no evidence whatsoever that practising BME GPs are performing in any way worse than their white colleagues,' he said. ‘The relevant question is whether this examination is fit for purpose.’

RCGP examiner, Dr Rhona Knight, said it was important to find out why BME and international students were failing important exams.

‘We need to find out why, and then we need to find the solutions and get them in place early on in training so doctors don’t end up spending £10,000 in some cases on the CSA not passing exams, getting into debt, getting stressed and having family problems.’

Proposing the motion, deputy chairman of BMA’s junior doctors committee, Dr Tim Yates, said trainees' lives were being ruined by the problem.

‘In the NHS we don't tolerate poor outcomes for patients from ethnic minority backgrounds, why do we tolerate this for trainees from the same groups?’

Dr Yates said doctors must reject the idea that BME trainees were not up to standard, but also the suggestion of overt racism. Examinations, he said, must test what makes a good doctor, not ‘white Englishness’.

While the college seemed to be the ‘main offender’, Dr Yates added: ‘We mustn’t just single out the RCGP, who to their credit are one of the only colleges that actually publish this data so we know it is actually happening.’

In May, LMCs voted for GMC, BMA and RCGP to launch an investigation into the problem of international students’ pass rates in the MRCGP exam.

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