The "time has come to act" on the gap between pass rates for white and non-white MRCGP exam candidates, a High Court judge has ruled.
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has pledged to take further action to support trainees who fail the exam, following a court case from the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) over the clinical assessment segment of the exam.
Justice Mitting found that the clinical skills assessment (CSA) was "proportional", despite the gap in pass rates. Claims against the RCGP and the General Medical Council (GMC) were dismissed, but he did say that it's time for the RCGP to address the differentials in pass rates.
Eighteen equality assessment reviews of the exam have been undertaken so far.
Some of the differences in pass rates between groups could be down to cultural or educational differences, the judge ruled.
He ruled: ‘The college needs to act to eliminate discrimination and has identified some of the means by which that need might be addressed and fulfilled.’
‘If it does not act, and its failure to act is the subject of a further challenge, it may well be held to have breached its duty.’
RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: “We agree that further action is needed, and we are already working hard to find the best way of supporting the small number of trainees who fail to pass the CSA component of the MRCGP licensing exam to give them every chance of passing the exam.
“We are also committed to acting on recommendations made in recent reviews to ensure the MRCGP minimises any possible risks of unfairness and we are very keen to work with the GP training community to develop effective training strategies for those who might struggle with the exam.
“Overall, around 95% of candidates will pass the CSA. Of the College’s 30,271 Fellows and Members, who have declared their ethnicity, 30% are from a BME background.
“We hope that today's judgment means we can now draw a line under the events of the past year and concentrate on delivering a robust and fair exam for future generations of GPs and for the benefit of our patients.”
The RCGP has announced further web-based learning resources and publications are being developed to help trainees and their trainers prepare for the exam.
The organisation is also reviewing how to improve the quality of feedback that candidates receive from the exam so that they can target any areas of underperformance with their trainer.