Letters

Language, fairness, and the MRCGP examination

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.320.7244.1278/a (Published 06 May 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:1278

Political correctness going too far

  1. George Boulos, trainer, Oxford region (gboulos{at}netcomuk.co.uk)
  1. Tilehurst Surgery, Tylers Place, Tilehurst, Reading, Berks RG30 6BW
  2. Sandwell Health Authority, West Bromwich B70 9LD

    EDITOR—Surely the article by Roberts et al article is political correctness again going too far.1 If the candidate is consistently compromised in terms of understanding an examiner, he or she will be more of a liability to employ in a situation where good communication is the essence of good general practice.

    After all, it is the doctor's duty to familiarise himself or herself with the language of the community in which he or she has chosen to practise, not the duty of the majority to pander to their doctor's linguistic shortcomings.

    References

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    What is important is who will make a good doctor

    1. Jammi N Rao, deputy director of public health (jammi.rao{at}bharat.demon.co.uk)
    1. Tilehurst Surgery, Tylers Place, Tilehurst, Reading, Berks RG30 6BW
    2. Sandwell Health Authority, West Bromwich B70 9LD

      EDITOR—Boulos is misguided when he says that Roberts et al's excellent article1 on the nuances of language is “political correctness gone too far.” He is also being disingenuous when he says that it is “the doctor's duty to familiarise himself or herself with the language of the community in which he or she has chosen to practise.”

      I presume he means that all overseas doctors should have an excellent command of English. That's a viewpoint to which he is entitled. I wish he would campaign for applying it consistently. If he did and if the Royal College of General Practitioners applied thiscriterion then doctors would have to learn (and the MRCGP examination would have to testknowledge of) the nuances not of the English spoken by Oxbridge graduates but of Englishand its many variants, and arguably in some areas even of other languages. After all, these are the communities in which real doctors practise medicine. This could be carriedfurther. How many British graduates working in non-English speaking countries really know the language of their patients?


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      Roberts et al's paper makes the excellent point that language and discourse get in the way of the examination doing its intended job—which is to judge whether a candidate will make a good doctor. The young doctor in A J Cronin's book The Citadel had a similar problem when he wanted, as a doctor working in the Welsh valleys, to take the membership examination. At that time it included a compulsory paper in Latin. It was totally unrelated to the practice of medicine and served no higher purpose other than to keep young upstarts out of “the club.” We now recognise this to be a form of indirect discrimination.

      For a general practice trainer to dismiss Roberts et al's well argued message as empty political correctness and no more is deeply depressing.

      References

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