Welcome to the latest issue of the Examiner. This newsletter is designed to keep our colleagues informed about the projects that are going on behind the scenes. We are continuing to keep an eye on future-proofing the examinations, and many of the articles in this issue describe our efforts to do this. In the UK, we have engaged a market research company to help us find out what our stakeholders think of us and the examinations that we run. We will work with the results, expected at the end of June, to ensure that we are not only as academically robust as we can be, but also responsive to the needs of our candidates, examiners and our external partners.
Continuing on the theme of engagement, we have held a new officers’ induction event, to ensure that the new recruits to our boards and standard setting groups are well briefed on our activity and our ethos. Many of the participants were recruited via this newsletter, so many thanks to all those who responded to our request for expressions of interest. It was a lively event, and one that we will repeat each time we have a new intake of colleagues.
We are also pleased to highlight the launch of the new PACES Scenario Writing Group. This will make the process of writing scenarios more professional, and will ensure that we are able to maintain the standard of our testing of history-taking, communication skills and ethics.
We continue to be oversubscribed for PACES in the UK and internationally, and are working hard on keeping up with the demand. We are continuing with Fast Track PACES, to offer greater support to candidates, and we have opened a new examination centre in Oman. The recruitment of examiners for our new centre in Khartoum has also taken place, one of whom, Dr Sarah Misbah El-Sadig, is featured in this issue.
Demand for the SCEs is also rising, following the relaxation of the eligibility rules, and we hope to be able to give more candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge base in the medical specialties.
I hope you enjoy this edition, and many thanks for your continuing support.
Professor Jane Dacre
Medical Director, MRCP(UK)
Listening to stakeholders
Over the past six weeks Cragg Ross Dawson Research, an independent market research agency commissioned by MRCP(UK), have been gathering the views of our stakeholders. They have been talking to junior doctors who have completed the examination, physicians involved in training, and people from key organisations such as the General Medical Council (GMC) and Health Education England to understand their perceptions of the MRCP(UK) examination. The aim is to gather evidence to demonstrate that the examination is meeting their needs in terms of:
• Academic quality
• The standard set
• Service provided.
This information will help MRCP(UK) to deliver examinations that are relevant and modern, and which keep pace with changes in the NHS, current assessment theory and practice, and the needs of UK medical training. Fieldwork and analysis will be complete at the end of June, and the final report with recommendations will be presented to the MRCP(UK) Management Board, confirming that the MRCP(UK) is fit for purpose, or recommending change.
Response to BMA diversity review
In February this year, the British Medical Association (BMA) requested information about diversity monitoring procedures of medical royal college examinations, and as a result of sustained work in this area over many years, MRCP(UK) was able to provide a comprehensive reply. The BMA was following up on its 2006 report, ‘Examining Equality: a Survey of Royal College Examinations’, and asked for examples of best practice. MRCP(UK) is firmly committed to fairness in all aspects of the Federation’s examinations, and we routinely collect and monitor equality and diversity data. We are open and transparent about the findings, and pass rates by gender and ethnicity are published annually on the MRCP(UK) website. We are alert to differences in performance and to the different groups of trainees who take our examinations, and MRCP(UK) continues to invest in research in this important area. Published research papers can be found on the latest report on pass rates.
Good census response
Thanks to everyone who completed the latest census, which was sent by email to all PACES examiners, board members, question writers and standard setters. The response rate was 82% and if you missed the deadline this time around, please do your part next year so that we reach 100% in 2014. The annual census is stipulated by our regulator, the GMC, and it is an assurance that all physicians involved in the examinations remain up to date on the requirements for their roles.
New Scenario Writing Group
A new Scenario Writing Group (SWG) has been recruited, to increase our stock of high-quality scenarios for PACES in line with growing demand for the examination. The SWG will take over responsibility for generating scenarios for Stations 2 and 4 which cover history-taking, and communications and ethics, respectively. To date, these have been written by the Scenario Editorial Committee, which will continue to oversee quality assurance. The group is chaired by Dr Elizabeth Murphy (pictured) and includes 19 consultants plus eight trainees, who contribute recent experience of the examination and a very current understanding of the daily demands that candidates face in their clinical practice. Training for the new group starts in June and the SWG will hold its first meeting in November. You can read more about the new SWG on the MRCP(UK) website.
Fast Track update
New arrangements to help candidates meet NHS recruitment deadlines are settling in and working well. The Fast Track scheme was launched in early 2013, building on the success of the Early Next Attempts Pilot in 2012. Fast Track enables UK trainees who fail the Part 2 Clinical (PACES) examination early in the year to have a further attempt within the same assessment period, in good time to take up a higher specialist training (ST3) post, for which the full MRCP(UK) Diploma is required. Under Fast Track, UK trainees who fail PACES can now sit the examination again much sooner. So far in 2013, 116 candidates have made use of the Fast Track option. The number of places is limited but we will continue to accommodate as many candidates as possible.
Latest PACES centre in Oman
In April, a third PACES centre opened in Oman, with Dr Raj Kamath as host examiner. The examination ran impeccably in ideal facilities and 15 candidates were examined. The new centre increases capacity from eight to ten days of PACES, allowing 150 candidates to be examined every year in Oman. Many thanks to Dr Kamath and his team for a hospitable welcome for the UK examiners and a very successful launch.
International marketing campaign for SCEs
A new marketing campaign will promote the SCEs internationally, and aims to boost the number of candidates choosing these examinations outside the UK. The campaign highlights the professional benefits of the SCE, which allows candidates an opportunity to improve their specialty knowledge. Passing the SCE also gives candidates an edge when competing for senior posts. The campaign explains that, unlike other examinations at this level, the SCEs no longer have an eligibility requirement. All in all, it is a respected postgraduate medical qualification, backed by 150 years of prestige, for those looking to progress in their chosen specialty. The first step in the campaign was an advertising banner across international BMJ careers websites, which will continue throughout the year. Another step is the production of a marketing brochure. Other promotional activities will follow.
Board member induction
In March, several new board members were welcomed at an induction event at the Royal College of Physicians of London, led by Professor Jane Dacre and Rebecca Radziejowska. The day started with an ice-breaker where everyone was invited to introduce themselves and share an interesting but not widely known fact from their lives. The new board members then heard about the organisation of MRCP(UK), how the examinations are prepared and run, and their new roles. They also learned about the statistical methods involved in standard setting and marking the exams, and the support they could expect from central office. The London induction was attended by Professor Jonathan Ross (Part 2 Written Examination Board), Dr Jane Sterling (SCE Dermatology), Dr Soon Song (SCE Endocrinology and Diabetes), Dr Maralyn Druce (SCE Endocrinology and Diabetes), Dr Joyce Thompson (SCE Medical Oncology), Dr Carolyn Gabriel (SCE Neurology), and Dr Heather Wilson (SCE Neurology).
As ‘The Examiner’ went to press, a similar induction was planned at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in June. The new board members invited include: Dr Kristien Boelaert (SCE Endocrinology and Diabetes), Dr Adam Gordon (Part 2 Written Examination Board), Dr John Ingram (SCE Dermatology), and Dr Iain Matthews (trainee representative on AQMRC).
Board membership is on a five-year basis and thanks are due to the demitting members, who have made a huge contribution during their terms.
Launching PACES in Sudan
In this profile, we talk to PACES examiner Dr Sarah Misbah El-Sadig at the new PACES centre in Khartoum, Sudan (click here for a full report). She explains all the steps – large and small – that made the first PACES examinations in Sudan a triumph, and tells us why the achievement is so important for her trainees and her country. Dr Misbah El-Sadig is pictured here with Professor Jane Dacre.