Evaluating the wider impacts of changes to UK medical education in response to the Covid-19 pandemic

Why did we commission this research?

The project evaluated the changes made to medical education and training in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It explored which changes could be retained, altered, or removed, and how to respond to similar events in the future.

What did the research involve?

  • A rapid review of published evidence.
  • Analysis of secondary data to understand how the Annual Review of Competence Progression (ARCP) outcomes and exam results varied over the pandemic period.
  • Qualitative data collection involving 238 trainees, trainers, and education leaders. This was gathered via 24 focus groups and 27 individual interviews. 

What were the key findings?

Overall, the changes were perceived positively by most respondents and helped to mitigate the challenges presented by the pandemic. Curricula derogations, including around exams, were deemed essential to allow progression.

Views varied on whether specific components should be retained or altered, due to individual challenges that some respondents encountered. For example, there were different views on whether technical risks for online exams and ARCP panels losing networking opportunities meant that these interventions should be retained.

Learnings identified included:

  • the need for timely communication around exam changes
  • the importance of clear guidance to support consistency within ARCP processes
  • care of staff for whom there was a considerable impact on their wellbeing whilst managing the developing crises, alongside education and professional development.

Many felt that it was the right time to remove the derogated ARCP outcomes but that they should be kept in reserve in the event of future disruption.

Differential attainment

The quantitative data highlighted a decrease in differences in successful outcomes between some demographic groups in 2020, however, these decreases subsequently reversed. The reduction in differential attainment appeared to be due to a decrease in successful outcomes overall, rather than necessarily a mitigation provided by changes to systems.

Next steps

The findings from the evaluation will inform our education reform programme of work, which we are currently developing, and more broadly support improvement and innovation in medical education and training.

The evaluation will also inform preparedness for events like Covid-19 in the future.


Final report - Evaluating the Wider Impacts of Changes to UK Medical Education in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Technical Annex - Evaluating the Wider Impacts of Changes to UK Medical Education in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic