- Aneez Esmail, professor of general practice,
- Chris Roberts, professor of biostatistics
- Correspondence to: A Esmail
Objective To determine the difference in failure rates in the postgraduate examination of the Royal College of General Practitioners (MRCGP) by ethnic or national background, and to identify factors associated with pass rates in the clinical skills assessment component of the examination.
Design Analysis of data provided by the Royal College of General Practitioners and the General Medical Council.
Participants Cohort of 5095 candidates sitting the applied knowledge test and clinical skills assessment components of the MRCGP examination between November 2010 and November 2012. A further analysis was carried out on 1175 candidates not trained in the United Kingdom, who sat an English language capability test (IELTS) and the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) examination (as required for full medical registration), controlling for scores on these examinations and relating them to pass rates of the clinical skills assessment.
Setting United Kingdom.
Results After controlling for age, sex, and performance in the applied knowledge test, significant differences persisted between white UK graduates and other candidate groups. Black and minority ethnic graduates trained in the UK were more likely to fail the clinical skills assessment at their first attempt than their white UK colleagues (odds ratio 3.536 (95% confidence interval 2.701 to 4.629), P<0.001; failure rate 17% v 4.5%). Black and minority ethnic candidates who trained abroad were also more likely to fail the clinical skills assessment than white UK candidates (14.741 (11.397 to 19.065), P<0.001; 65% v 4.5%). For candidates not trained in the UK, black or minority ethnic candidates were more likely to fail than white candidates, but this difference was no longer significant after controlling for scores in the applied knowledge test, IELTS, and PLAB examinations (adjusted odds ratio 1.580 (95% confidence interval 0.878 to 2.845), P=0.127).
Conclusions Subjective bias due to racial discrimination in the clinical skills assessment may be a cause of failure for UK trained candidates and international medical graduates. The difference between British black and minority ethnic candidates and British white candidates in the pass rates of the clinical skills assessment, despite controlling for prior attainment, suggests that subjective bias could also be a factor. Changes to the clinical skills assessment could improve the perception of the examination as being biased against black and minority ethnic candidates. The difference in training experience and other cultural factors between candidates trained in the UK and abroad could affect outcomes. Consideration should be given to strengthening postgraduate training for international medical graduates.
The Royal College of General Practitioners provided the data for these analyses to the General Medical Council and agreed that the findings should be made publicly available through scientific publication.
Contributors: AE and CR planned, analysed, and wrote the paper. AE affirms that the manuscript is an honest, accurate, and transparent account of the study being reported; that no important aspects of the study have been omitted; and that any discrepancies from the study as planned (and, if relevant, registered) have been explained. AE is the guarantor.
Funding: There was no funding provided for this work.
Competing interests: All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at www.icmje.org/coi_disclosure.pdf and declare: AE and CR were commissioned by the General Medical Council to carry out an independent review of the failure rates in the MRCGP examination, and declare that they received a fee from the General Medical Council for carrying out this work; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.
Ethical approval: Ethical approval was not required for the study.
Data sharing: No additional data available.
Declaration of transparency: The lead author affirms that this manuscript is an honest, accurate, and transparent account of the study being reported; that no important aspects of the study have been omitted; and that any discrepancies from the study as planned (and, if relevant, registered) have been explained.
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