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BMC Med Educ. 2015 Apr 21;15:80. doi: 10.1186/s12909-015-0362-x.

Are the General Medical Council's Tests of Competence fair to long standing doctors? A retrospective cohort study.

Author information

1
Division of UCL Medical School, University College London, Royal Free Hospital, room GF/664, Hampstead, London, NW3 2PF, UK. l.mehdizadeh@ucl.ac.uk.
2
Division of UCL Medical School, University College London, Royal Free Hospital, room GF/664, Hampstead, London, NW3 2PF, UK. a.sturrock@ucl.ac.uk.
3
Royal College of Physicians, London, UK. Jane.Dacre@rcplondon.ac.uk.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The General Medical Council's Fitness to Practise investigations may involve a test of competence for doctors with performance concerns. Concern has been raised about the suitability of the test format for doctors who qualified before the introduction of Single Best Answer and Objective Structured Clinical Examination assessments, both of which form the test of competence. This study explored whether the examination formats used in the tests of competence are fair to long standing doctors who have undergone fitness to practise investigation.

METHODS:

A retrospective cohort design was used to determine an association between year of primary medical qualification and doctors' test of competence performance. Performance of 95 general practitioners under investigation was compared with a group of 376 volunteer doctors. We analysed performance on knowledge test, OSCE overall, and three individual OSCE stations using Spearman's correlation and regression models.

RESULTS:

Doctors under investigation performed worse on all test outcomes compared to the comparison group. Qualification year correlated positively with performance on all outcomes except for physical examination (e.g. knowledge test r = 0.48, p < 0.001 and OSCE r = 0.37, p < 0.001). Qualification year was associated with test performance in doctors under investigation even when controlling for sex, ethnicity and qualification region. Regression analyses showed that qualification year was associated with knowledge test, OSCE and communication skills performance of doctors under investigation when other variables were controlled for. Among volunteer doctors this was not the case and their performance was more strongly related to where they qualified and their ethnic background. Furthermore, volunteer doctors who qualified before the introduction of Single Best Answer and OSCE assessments, still outperformed their peers under investigation.

CONCLUSIONS:

Earlier graduates under fitness to practise investigation performed less well on the test of competence than their more recently qualified peers under investigation. The performance of the comparator group tended to stay consistent irrespective of year qualified. Our results suggest that the test format does not disadvantage early qualified doctors. We discuss findings in relation to the GMC's fitness to practise procedures and suggest alternative explanations for the poorer performance of long standing doctors under investigation.

PMID:
25896823
PMCID:
PMC4453964
DOI:
10.1186/s12909-015-0362-x
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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