BMA statement on disability and royal college exam attempts

The BMA’s determination to ensure that disabled doctors are treated as equals by medical royal colleges.

Location: UK
Published: Wednesday 20 December 2023
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In September 2023, Chair of the Representative Body, Dr Latifa Patel wrote about the BMA’s determination to ensure that disabled doctors are treated as equals by medical royal colleges. This came amid concerns about a specialty-based lottery on how doctors will be treated should they, after having taken one or more exams, receive a disability diagnosis which would have entitled them to reasonable adjustments. It is our firm belief that all doctors who receive such a diagnosis should be given an equal number of fair examinations to other doctors, and additional attempts should be provided accordingly.

Earlier this year, we wrote to medical colleges regarding their reasonable adjustments policies, and we met with representatives of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) to call for a consistent and fair approach across medical examinations. We are encouraged to see that a principle of fairness for all candidates has now been outlined in new guidance from the AoMRC.

The guidance states:

"When new information is received by a college, for example a new diagnosis or a change in the recommendation for reasonable adjustment, which might lead to the granting of additional attempts, it should be considered whether this information will have affected all previous attempts, or only some, and the number of remaining attempts calculated accordingly. For example, new information on a diagnosis of a disability which is likely to have affected all previous attempts, could lead to the full number of attempts being granted."

We now call on all medical royal colleges, faculties and exam bodies to implement policies which provide fair opportunities for all candidates, in line with the AoMRC guidance. 

In recent years, we have been working hard on behalf of individual BMA members with disabilities who have raised concerns with us specifically about the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) exam attempts policy. You can read more about this in this open letter from the GP Registrars Committee to the college.

Regrettably, despite repeated attempts by the BMA to seek a resolution the RCGP’s resistance to changing its policy has led to several individual legal cases being launched challenging the lawfulness of the policy. To assist with the BMA’s legal action, we are urgently seeking further information from those potentially affected by the RCGP’s policy. If you are, or were, a GP registrar (after 2011) please complete our brief survey

We are proud to support our disabled colleagues by undertaking this important work and will continue our pursuit of fairness in attempts policies until all candidates can access the same number of fair attempts in their examinations.