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Fears for patient safety after trainees are given even more chances to qualify because of desperate

Trainee GPs who repeatedly fail exams will be given even more chances to resit, according to proposals.

Health Education England announced draft plans to give doctors six chances to pass the GP qualification exam, up from the current four.

They will also be given an extra six months in which to sit the exams. Critics said last night they feared for the safety of patients.

The Royal College of GPs said the country desperately needed more family doctors, but they should not come ‘through the back door’. And patients’ groups said failed doctors should not be allowed ‘another bite of the apple’.

The proposals were unveiled as NHS England announced it will spend £100 million recruiting 2,000 foreign doctors to tackle the GP shortage. The NHS application process for foreign GPs is to be ‘streamlined’ and doctors will be offered generous relocation packages – including travel costs for their families and funds to move their possessions.

Announcing a consultation regarding the new qualification proposals, Health Education England (HEE) said a ‘small number of doctors’ each year are ‘progressing towards competence’ but at too ‘insufficient a rate to succeed’.

These tests, as well as a workplace-based assessment, are required for the Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners (MRCGP) qualification. The three-year MRCGP entrance process comes after students have attended medical school and completed a five or six-year degree, and undertaken two years of foundation training in hospitals.

The new proposals include allowing trainees who repeatedly fail the professional exams to sit the tests six times, and giving applicants a 12-month extension period to pass, up from six months currently. Officials insisted that trainees who repeatedly failed would be given additional ‘targeted GP training’.

Professor Simon Gregory of HEE said: ‘The amended proposals offer a number of routes to support doctors to enter and successfully complete GP training while maintaining the gold standard of MRCGP as exit criteria.

‘In particular, this would help doctors who are progressing in training but not able to do so sufficiently in the time allowed.’

But Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘The college’s No 1 priority is, and always will be, patient safety. General practice is under intense resource and workforce pressures, and we desperately need more family doctors practising in the UK, but not through the back door, and not at the expense of the trust and confidence patients have in their GP.’

Joyce Robins, of Patient Concern, added: ‘Streamlining is all right providing it is improving the hiring process, but not if they are dumbing down the entry criteria. Giving failed trainees a second bite of the apple could well be a bad idea.

‘Instead, we should be discouraging our brightest young medics from going abroad.’

Culled from Daily Mail