HCSA urges MRCS A review after exam issues hit JD members

HCSA has written to the Royal College of Surgeons calling for urgent action over the handling of recent MRCS Part A examinations which have caused significant distress for some members.

The association acted following complaints from members affected who described being faced by “unacceptable inconsistencies” through the attempt to run the examinations in a new online format.

HCSA is supporting members who complained of issues with miscommunication, facial recognition software, short notice of changes, IT failures, and problems accessing instructions.

The association called for an urgent review of the examination process and the software supporting it to prevent any future repeat, warning it had placed a needless additional burden on the wellbeing of hospital doctors already facing huge pressure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Trainees who failed to pass the exam will be able to resit the exams and the first attempt of the new online format will not be counted by the GMC.

However, HCSA remains concerned that the issues reported by members must not be repeated, warning that the current model is likely to lead to discrimination of some members for whom online examinations create greater challenges.

HCSA President Dr Claudia Paoloni said: “This has been an extremely difficult year which has presented many challenges and uncertainties for our trainee doctors.

“The handling of the MRCS A this autumn has created needless additional distress for many or our surgical trainees and so we are urging acknowledgement of the issues and a review of communications, systems and software to ensure they are fit for the next wave of exams.

“We would particularly highlight the additional barriers that online formats pose for some individuals, and to avoid claims of unfair discrimination this means taking a sensitive approach to mitigating circumstances which reflects the extra challenges involved.”