NHS buckling at the knees while government quango refuses access to vital international doctors
The Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) are supporting overseas doctors from COVID-19 red list countries who are unable to travel to the UK to complete an exam required to be eligible for medical training in the UK.
The forthcoming exam -The Stage 2 Clinical Assessment run by the UK Foundation Programme Office* (UKFPO) overlooks current travel limitations enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic, which have left many overseas applicants unable to progress their applications for the Foundation Programme, to enable them to work in the UK.
Passing the Clinical Assessment is mandatory for candidates who graduated before August 2019 and now wish to apply for a foundation doctor post. The second stage of this Assessment is a test of a doctor’s clinical skills by way of an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)-style, face-to-face exam, due to take place on the 26-27th May this year.
Pandemic restrictions currently limit travel from countries in the Red List (including Pakistan, Philippines, Bangladesh, Kenya, Zimbabwe and most recently, India), meaning that candidates cannot travel from these countries to participate in the exam.
A candidate who wished to remain anonymous from one of the listed countries raised concerns with DAUK saying, “this directly goes against the UKFPO duty of fair treatment for all applicants and discriminates against those who are unable to travel due to extenuating circumstances.” “Prior correspondence reassured that no candidates would be disadvantaged for their circumstances. However, the UKFPO have indicated its intention to withdraw myself
(and other applicants in red list countries) if we fail to attend the assessment in person in May, despite having paid the non-refundable assessment fee (£850) and already being allocated to a UK foundation post for August.”
This doctor and colleagues wrote an open letter to the UKFPO proposing reasonable adjustments to the examination, including rescheduling the date of the assessment and/or adapting the format for delivery via an online platform to enable participants from overseas to complete the assessment. These suggestions have been rejected.
Dr Jenny Vaughan, DAUK Chair:
“DAUK supports the adjustments proposed in the letter, to enable experienced international colleagues to join our NHS workforce. These candidates have already invested significantly in the process of coming the work in our system and many have served resignation notices in their current posts. Passing this exam is their key to taking up roles in the UK, and we urge the UKFPO to find solutions for these candidates, to enable them to contribute to an NHS that is much in need of their skills.”
Freya Rhodes, Medical Student Representative DAUK:
“This is huge concern for these qualified doctors who are ready to work in the UK. 1 in 7 NHS workers are from overseas and their vital contribution to the workforce must be recognised.”
“It is a very challenging time to be entering the NHS. Considering current workforce shortages and high levels of staff burnout, inadequate exam provision is an unnecessary obstacle. The UKFPO must make reasonable adjustments to ensure equal access to training and allow as many new doctors as possible to start work in August.”
-The UK Foundation Programme Office (UKFPO) manages the Foundation Programme – a two-year structured programme of workplace based training for junior doctors, that forms a bridge between medical school and higher specialty training, and allows trainees to practice as a fully registered doctor in the UK.
-The UKFPO is responsible for allocating places on the programme to all qualifying medical graduates in the UK. They also manage applications for non-UK graduates who are eligible to apply.
-The Clinical Assessment is a mandatory requirement for anyone who qualified from medical school on or before 4th August 2019. This includes many overseas doctors who may have qualified before this date, and gained valuable experience practising as doctors elsewhere.