RCGP council member investigated over exam advice book

An RCGP council member is being investigated over a book she wrote advising MRCGP candidates on how to 'neutralise bias' from the college's examiners.

Dr Una Coales: RCGP has distanced itself from her book
Dr Una Coales: RCGP has distanced itself from her book

Extracts from the book by RCGP council member Dr Una Coales, a candidate in recent college presidential elections, suggest candidates are less likely to pass MRCGP exams if they act 'overtly gay'.

A section of the book quoted in the Independent newspaper says: 'One candidate was facing a third sitting and yet no one had told him that his mannerisms, gait and speech were too overtly gay, and that he was sitting an exam administered by a right-wing conservative royal college.'

The newspaper also quotes advice that candidates should shave off facial hair, avoid wearing floral dresses and if that overseas candidates should try to 'focus on emphasising the lyrical Scottish or Welsh accent' if they are taking exams in these parts of the UK.

In a statement the RCGP said it had referred the matter to its 'senior officer team'. RCGP chief executive Neil Hunt said: ‘The RCGP does not endorse the book, the author did not write it in her capacity as a member of the RCGP council, and we reject the advice given.

'The clinical skills assessment is one component of a robust examination, approved by the GMC, that all GPs must pass in order to enter into independent general practice. It reflects the diversity in general practice and within the college. I have referred the matter to the senior officer team of the college.

‘MRCGP examiners are experienced GPs who undergo comprehensive and rigorous training to ensure that their professional judgements are objective, consistent and fair to all candidates. We take equality and diversity extremely seriously and through our examiner and role-player training and quality assurance programmes aim to ensure that no candidate is discriminated against on any grounds.

'All examiners receive regular training in equality and diversity and our statistics confirm that they do not discriminate against particular groups of candidates in any way and that the ethnicity of examiner and candidate pairings has no bearing on the marks awarded.

'Examiners are trained to mark only what they actually observe and hear within the context of the consultation and the carefully designed marking schedule. We examine up to 3,500 candidates each year and are very familiar with the diversity in styles of different candidates.’

Dr Coales told the Independent: ‘I'm not for a minute suggesting the college is racist or homophobic. These are merely tips to neutralise subjective bias, if any, in 10-minute assessments involving a total of 26 random actors and examiners who have never met the candidate.’

According to the newspaper Dr Coales has previous stated of her advice: 'All of my suggestions are simply about getting you through the CSA. They're about changing your image to get you through this one assessment. They're not about changing who you are.’

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