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New GMC report highlights factors that affect progression of doctors in training

Press Release

11 Mar 2015

New data published by the General Medical Council (GMC) reports for the first time on examination results and recruitment outcomes for different groups of doctors across the UK.

The data may help identify examples of good practice, where effective support has been given to doctors in training who have found it more difficult to pass exams or progress into specialty or GP training.

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the GMC

Among the findings (pdf), women doctors were more likely to pass their exams or be offered a training post than men. Ethnic minority doctors from UK medical schools did less well in recruitment and exams than their white counterparts, but better than white doctors from a non-UK medical school.

Commenting on today’s report Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the GMC, said:

‘We have to treat this new information with care – the exam data is only based on one year’s figures and we do not yet understand why these differences occur. But being open about all this is a vital first step to analysing what is going on and doing something about it.

‘We know too that postgraduate exam pass rates vary between graduates of different medical schools and between postgraduate training programmes.

‘The data may help identify examples of good practice, where effective support has been given to doctors in training who have found it more difficult to pass exams or progress into specialty or GP training.

‘We must never compromise standards but if we are going to achieve a high quality and fair system of training doctors for the future, we need to understand more about how doctors are progressing through their training now.’

The report is part of a wider programme of work which the GMC is undertaking with the Medical Royal Colleges and those who fund postgraduate education to investigate barriers that affect how doctors progress through training.

Dr J-P van Besouw, Vice-chair and education lead for the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said:

‘The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges welcomes the General Medical Council’s thorough analysis of the data the Medical Royal Colleges provided on their examination pass rates.

‘It is clear that while the issue of differential attainment is not simply about exams or indeed confined to the medical profession, we must strive for fairness and equality of opportunity in terms of gender, ethnicity and country of origin in the examination process.

‘Quality and patient safety do, however, have to be the first consideration in any medical examination process. Beyond that, they must always be fair and free from any discrimination and bias and that there should be no factors within the control of Colleges that contribute to differential attainment.

‘This analysis shows us that while we have made a good start in seeing where any potential discrepancies may exist, there is further work to be done and much more data will be required if we are to have any insight into the possible causes of those discrepancies if we are to understand how they can be eradicated.’

The report is based on two new sets of data:

  • Recruitment data showing doctors applying for specialty and general practice (GP) training programmes after completing foundation training (F2). This covers the first round of national recruitment in each year from 2012 to 2014 into specialty and GP training.
  • Examinations data from a single academic year from the Medical Royal Colleges showing pass rates for doctors in specialty and GP training. This covers more than 100 different exams.

The GMC has acknowledged that the current data is limited – it covers only one year of exam outcomes and three years of round one recruitment data.

Broad trends in doctors applying for specialty and general practice (GP) training programmes after completing the first two year foundation training programme after graduation indicate that:

  • across specialties, medical schools and postgraduate training, women are more likely to be offered a place on a training programme
  • doctors with an undergraduate medical degree from outside the UK were less likely to be offered a specialty or GP training place than those who attended a UK medical school
  • black and minority ethnic (BME) doctors are less likely to be offered a place on a training programme than white applicants.
  • BME doctors who went to medical school in the UK were more likely to be offered a place than white doctors who did not attend a UK medical school.

Broad trends in examinations data showing pass rates for doctors in specialty and GP training:

  • doctors who were in a UK training programme when taking the exam were more likely to pass than those who were not
  • women were more likely to pass than men
  • BME doctors from a UK medical school were less likely to pass than white doctors from a UK medical school. Pass rates were 63.5% and 76% respectively
  • BME doctors from a UK medical school were more likely to pass than white doctors from a non-UK medical school.

The report will be useful to all those responsible for managing and delivering medical education and training in the UK including medical schools, postgraduate deaneries and local education and training boards (LETBs). The report may also be of interest to health workforce planners. Medical schools can use the reports to see how their graduates fare after leaving undergraduate training including which specialties they apply to.

The data has been supplied by the medical royal colleges; Health Education England; NHS Education for Scotland; Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency and the Wales Deanery. The data is available along with the GMC’s report on the findings (pdf).

Notes to editors

Our 2015 conference will explore the theme of creating a culture of openness, safety and compassion. The conference will take place on 16 March 2015 and it is free to attend. However, places are currently limited.

Workshops will explore topics including embedding patient safety in the undergraduate curriculum, differential attainment, the GMC’s research programme, and revalidation and reflective practice.

The workshop on differential attainment will explore the factors associated with doctors’ progression through training. During this session, we will share our initial findings and invite delegates to join an open discussion about how we and others can investigate the underlying causes of differential attainment in medical education and support doctors in training.

The GMC sets the educational standards for all UK doctors through undergraduate and postgraduate education and training.

It’s responsibilities for postgraduate medical education and training includes approving training posts, programmes and the way assessments including examinations are carried out. The GMC also reviews and monitors the quality and standards of training doctors receive so that they can treat patients safely and well.

Medical royal colleges and faculties set the curricula and assessments, which doctors must achieve to proceed in their specialty training programmes.

Assessments include examinations, which are tailored to suit the needs of each specialty, and the point in training a doctor is being assessed.

The General Medical Council (GMC) is an independent organisation that helps to protect patients and improve medical education and practice across the UK.

  • We decide which doctors are qualified to work here and we oversee UK medical education and training.
  • We set the standards that doctors need to follow, and make sure that they continue to meet these standards throughout their careers.
  • We take action when we believe a doctor may be putting the safety of patients, or the public’s confidence in doctors, at risk.

We are not here to protect doctors – their interests are protected by others. Our job is to protect the public.

We are independent of government and the medical profession and accountable to Parliament. Our powers are given to us by Parliament through the Medical Act 1983.

We are a registered charity (number 1089278 with the Charity Commission for England and Wales, and number SC037750 with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator), we have to show that our aims are for public benefit.

The GMC Media Relations Office can be contacted on 020 7189 5454, email press@gmc-uk.org.

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