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Students lose jobs in SJT re-run

Eight medical students allocated foundation schools before application test scanning errors emerged have been told they have lost those places.

The eight are the worst affected among 148 final years whose foundation school allocations changed following problems scanning SJT (situational judgement test) answer papers.

They have now been placed on a reserve list. The BMA medical students committee is keen to reassure all students that they will be allocated jobs starting in August.

The SJT was used in the application process for the first time this year.

Medical student leaders have called for immediate support to be given to all final years whose job allocations were affected following the ‘chaotic failure’ of the exam marking process.

Shocking announcement

BMA medical students committee co-chair Will Seligman said: ‘It is shocking that eight students who just two weeks ago were told that they had a job may now face an anxious wait to find out where they will be placed in the four batch allocations between April and July.

‘The UKFPO [UK Foundation Programme Office] must ensure that students are offered proper support during this period, especially any who may have lost out financially.’

The allocations of 148 students changed; that represents 2 per cent of the 7,535 applicants. Of these, 71 were allocated to foundation schools they had ranked more highly during the application process. The other 77 were allocated to schools lower down their lists of preferences.

Eleven applicants who had been originally placed on a reserve list because there were more applicants than foundation programme places available have now been allocated to schools.

The eight students who are on the reserve list must wait for other candidates to withdraw or fail their exams, or for the government to create the extra places it promised.

The earliest date they can find out about places is April 30, when the UKFPO (UK Foundation Programme Office) will allocate any vacancies that have risen to the first batch of reserve list candidates.

Chaotic failure

The reserve list of 295 students (three fewer than previously announced due to people withdrawing from the programme) might not be cleared until July 24 – just days before training is due to start.

Mr Seligman said it was unacceptable that nearly 150 final years had had their first jobs changed ‘because of a chaotic failure of an exam-marking process’. He said: ‘Poor workforce planning by the Department of Health has led to a situation in which the foundation programme is oversubscribed year on year.

‘While the government has committed to ensuring that all eligible medical graduates have a job to start this year, some students will not find out until just a week before they are due to start where that will be.’

The BMA will be writing to health secretary Jeremy Hunt to express concerns about how the situation was allowed to arise.

The MSC will also be demanding that the results of an independent review of the problem, requested by the UKFPO and the Medical Schools Council, which commissioned the company responsible for the scanning errors, are published in full. The review will be conducted by Health Education England.

Loss of confidence

BMA junior doctors committee vice-chair Kitty Mohan said ‘the confidence of medical professionals in the current application process has been badly undermined’. She added: ‘The UKFPO and other bodies involved in this process must act quickly to ensure that positive steps are taken to rebuild their tarnished relationship with medical students.’

Problems with the scanning of the SJT answer sheets only emerged on February 26 — the day after the foundation school allocation had been made. There were discrepancies involving candidates who had made changes to answers.

A manual recheck of the scores uncovered errors affecting 353 candidates, and their scores were amended.

However, many more students could potentially have their allocations affected by other individuals’ scores going up or down, so the UKFPO decided the fairest solution would be to re-run the computer programme that matches final years with foundation schools.

A total of 7,242 applicants (96 per cent) were allocated to foundation schools in the re-run, with 6,441 allocated to one of their top five choices. These numbers have not changed.

UKFPO national director Derek Gallen apologised unreservedly for the issue. He said the delay would not impact on doctors starting their jobs in August. He added: ‘The UKFPO will continue to support applicants until the end of the process.’

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