This week the RCGP, along with the BMA, advised GP practices to halt almost all non-essential work to help practices manage pressures during the pandemic. Official figures show that the UK has routinely exceeded 45,000 cases of the virus per day since the end of December.
Health authorities suspended the AKT part of doctors' exams between March and July last year following the UK outbreak of COVID-19, but the RCGP has said it will give trainees the choice to sit the exam on 27 January after some students expressed a desire not to delay it.
College chair Professor Martin Marshall has stressed that the safety of candidates is paramount, and gave assurances that test centres hosting the AKT would continue to operate with the correct safety procedures, including social distancing.
January AKT exam
Candidates will be allowed to defer up to 72 hours before the exam at no cost, with the college working to put ‘alternative contingency arrangements’ in place for later in the year for those trainees who decide to defer.
The RCGP has asked its partner organisation in arranging the exams - to set up an AKT ‘contingency’ date, likely to be after March given the probable length of lockdown. It also apologised that shielding candidates would be unable to access the earlier sitting.
The January schedule for the recorded consultation assessment (RCA) will go ahead as planned, the college confirmed, while it said there would be ‘no change’ to the new, lighter touch workplace based assessment (WPBA).
For some trainees, the AKT is the only outstanding requirement before their certificate of completion of training (CCT); something which the RCGP suggested was a driving factor behind its decision to proceed with the exam.
Professor Marshall said: ‘The decision to cancel or continue with exams is not a simple one and it cannot be taken quickly or lightly without careful consideration of all the options.
‘The feedback we have received from trainees indicates no single approach which would work for everyone but we have listened to all perspectives and understand the concerns raised.
‘We are going ahead with the January AKT as some trainees wish to continue with the exam and our test centres have been operating with safety procedures in place, including social distancing, for some time. This is in line with the latest advice from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.
He added: ‘The safety of all trainees is paramount and we are in the process of putting alternative arrangements in place for those candidates who decide to defer. However, we advise trainees to speak with their deaneries or LETBs before making any decision.
‘We are in challenging times and we understand the added stress and anxiety the current situation is placing on trainees and we thank them for their ongoing professionalism and patience.’