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GMC faces high court action over exam pass rate disparity

The GMC is to face high court action over the disparity in GP exam pass rates, a judge ruled today.

gavelThe regulator will be included along with the RCGP (Royal College of GPs) in a judicial review about the differential pass rates for part of the college’s membership exam.

BAPIO (the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin) was granted permission by an appeal court judge today to include the GMC in its case.

The ruling overturns a previous high court decision that the GMC should not be included in the action over the fairness of the CSA (clinical skills assessment) component of the RCGP membership exam.

The decision means BAPIO will pursue proceedings against the RCGP and the GMC.


Permission to act

Speaking after the court case, BAPIO president Ramesh Mehta said: ‘We are delighted with the decision and that we have got the go-ahead against the GMC, as well as the RCGP. We feel a lot stronger now this judgement has gone in our favour.’

GPC trainees subcommittee chair Krishna Kasaraneni said: 'It is important that we ensure we have a workforce that is free from any discrimination. The NHS depends on the valuable contribution of medical professionals from a diverse set of backgrounds who on a daily basis deliver excellent services to patients.

'The ongoing concerns with the differential pass rates raises more questions about the selection and quality of postgraduate training as well as the assessments used.

'The BMA is taking this matter very seriously and will be examining the details of this case in the coming weeks. It is important that we ensure the CSA exam is fair to all those who take it.'

The judicial review centres on the differing pass rates among different ethnic groups of doctors for the CSA part of the MRCGP exam. This is the practical element of the exam in which doctors are assessed in a simulated surgery, using actors as patients.

There has been ongoing concern over the disparity in pass rates and last month an independent review into the issue, commissioned by the GMC, found BME (black and minority ethnic) graduates trained in the UK were three times more likely to fail the CSA than their white UK colleagues. International medical graduates from BME backgrounds were 15 times more likely to fail the CSA than their white colleagues, the research revealed.


Discrimination claims 

Judge Mrs Justice Patterson ruled in favour of BAPIO including the GMC in its action on the grounds that the regulator had not carried out an equality impact assessment of the requirements for membership of the RCGP, which includes the CSA.

However, she dismissed BAPIO’s other grounds that there had been direct or indirect discrimination.

It was also revealed in court that 50 individual doctors have launched employment tribunal claims of direct or indirect discrimination over the CSA.

The judicial review is not likely to be heard until the new year.

BMA council chair Mark Porter met Manchester University professor of general practice Aneez Esmail, who co-authored the GMC-commissioned report, earlier this month to help inform how best the BMA can take forward the issues raised on behalf of its members.

The association has also written to the RCGP and will meet the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges in November to ensure all necessary steps are being taken and there is fairness across the board.


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