We are all very anxious about the situation we find ourselves in. No one could have been prepared for the scale of COVID-19's impact: it has presented us with challenges we could never have anticipated.
I discovered, alongside my fellow trainees, the Royal College of GPs had cancelled all examinations from a statement issued by the college.
Since then, I have been in discussions seeking to mitigate this, alongside the other problems our cohort is facing, including the cancellation of educational sessions and the halt of CSA (clinical skills assessment) practice.
Last Friday, my fellow co-chair and I represented the BMA at a meeting between the RCGP, GMC, Health Education England and devolved-nation educational leads.
Together, our organisations are seeking to find a solution to ensure your training is not further compromised and that you are given the time you require to safely achieve CCT (certificate of completion of training).
There have been a number of suggestions about how we should proceed following the unprecedented COVID-19 situation. It has been agreed that trainees below specialty trainee 3 should all rotate as expected and they will be faced with the potential of getting an outcome 10.
This is a no-fault outcome reflective of the fact COVID-19 has affected their training, as would be expected, which will allow these doctors to move to their next jobs.
However, this does not help ST3s who were due to complete their CCTs this August.
We have spoken to the GMC and they have been clear that it is not possible to get a temporary CCT for a year (with full CCT once the examinations are passed) or give early CCT in the same way medical students got early provisional registration.
Discussing the situation of different ST3s, we've clarified the following:
- Trainees who have achieved their exams will need to fulfill the remaining requirements (set out by the RCGP) to achieve an outcome 6 at Annual Review of Competency Progression
- The RCGP is exploring the option of an online exam for those that are shielding or an early Pearson Vue diet for everyone else
- For trainees requiring CSA +/- AKT (applied knowledge test) there were a number of options discussed at a round-table meeting and the RCGP will present the feasibility of these options on Friday. The options discussed include:
1) Modifying the AKT exam to allow social distancing, which might require running twice as many sittings to accommodate the same number of candidates and working with Pearson Vue to discuss other social distancing options or remote invigilation
2) Running the CSA with modifications for social-distancing measures as soon as possible and running the CSA remotely in GP practices for those shielding
3) Running the CSA remotely in practices
4) Running regional CSAs
5) Not running the CSA, but using video/audio submissions instead as a previously validated method
6) Not running the CSA, but enhancing the consultant observation tool element of WPBA (workplace-based assessment) instead
7) Not running the CSA but using the results of other elements of the exam (ie, AKT and WPBA) to provide the totality of the MRCGP rather than just part.
The biggest problem with restarting the examination process in any way is the loss of educational time allowing us to prepare.
The way we practise has fundamentally changed – this might be the new normal, rather than the old 10-minute face-to-face consultations – a shift that the current CSA does not reflect.
Getting trainees ready to sit their examinations is a challenge that I am trying to help solve along with the rest of the committee, and an issue we will continue to raise.
I understand the frustrations that you are feeling, as you are at no fault for what has happened. I hope this update is helpful during this very difficult time.
We will continue to represent you and ensure that we get the best possible outcome for you, as we seek to protect GP trainees' careers from the effect of COVID-19. Once we meet again on 1 May we will update you when we can.
Sandesh Gulhane is co-chair of the GP trainees committee