20 August 2009

The ten day doctors

Just imagine the excitement you have when you first qualify as a doctor. All those years of toil and sacrifice finally pay off. You get allocated a job and on the strength of your modest income you take out a mortgage on a tiny flat which you share with your girlfriend who is better paid. Can it be true that you have finally made it? Many doctors think that way when they qualify. But eventually the day dawns when you first work as a doctor.

Imagine the shock if ten days after you have started work the Trust calls you in to tell you that they are suspending you. There has been a mistake and you are not a doctor after all. In fact you failed one of your many exams by one mark. The certificate you were given in a grand ceremony is worthless. Somebody in an office has made a mistake. You will need to fund yourself for another year. You will lose the income you never had. You will lose the home you will no longer be able to buy. It is a disaster. Perhaps you will have to just give it all up.

Mistakes happen. Mistake happen particularly at Cardiff University. Dr Grumble works in another country. He is not close by but even he has heard of the Cardiff chaos. These are not the only mistakes they have made.

Cardiff is not the only medical school where teaching is insufficiently valued and teaching support is inadequate. Unfortunately when there is pressure on budgets it is always teaching and teaching support that gets cut by medical schools. It's odd that. You would think a school was for teaching. But you would be wrong. Medical schools are for research. They do teach but it is not seen as important. It is certainly not their raison d'etre. So teaching gets cut and cut. They think nobody will notice. They think the students have no clout. They think that somehow the students will muddle through. And they know that NHS doctors will, in their own time, plug the teaching gaps because they feel sorry for the students and they have a sense of duty. Getting that to happen is the deliberate policy of one medical school. Allegedly.


Anonymous said...

Can a university really rescind a degree once it's been awarded? If so, that would seem to be a system open to all sorts of abuse.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure those medics were dangerous to their patients at all. This story is being reported by most papers as well as the BBC, but none of them state which module failed those 4 students and if that was a fair assessment since medical schools vary in their syllabus, their assessment method and their overall pass marks .. etc. Some medical schools also divide the finals over two years and/or allow students to repeat a year while others don't. Very unfair and there is no protection whatsoever for the medics!So, how do we know if the material taught in that particular module was essential to graduation? Or if it was passed by every other medic graduating this year in this country?

That above is why I would urge the media to investigate this further and report on all medical schools. I would also like to know which module led to those medics' suspension and what will happen to them now that they were suspended. Was that module relevant to awarding the degree? If no, will they be allowed to graduate? And if a proven yes, Will those students be given opportunities and support to resit or be given 'support' to change career? - And be wasted!

I also hope the rumours of the GMC's involvement in controlling graduate numbers are just that - rumours.

More reporting on these issues above by the media please

GM said...

I know a foreign doctor who graduated abroad but was allowed to work in this country on an HSMP visa. He repeated years while at med school abroad and passed his finals at the 4th attempt, repeating a year each time. He is now happily working here, while we waste our own and break them and their aspirations in the pocess by this unfair variation in assessment and those school who don't allow repeats! No wonder then when we read about safety blunders committed by foreiners we have no idea what medicine they studied or how valuable is their qualifications in comparison to ours, indeed, if those qualifications are valid and not forged to start with!

Crazy situation that must not be allowed to continue.

Dr Mark said...

Those 4 medics are not alone in that predicament as there are loads more awaiting their fate following unfair assessment in other medical schools. This inhumane practice of failing medical students in their final two years is sadly wide spread in this country and is used as a method for controling graduate numbers following GMC guidance.

Anonymous said...


the a&e charge nurse said...

"This inhumane practice of failing medical students in their final two years is sadly wide spread in this country and is used as a method for controling graduate numbers following GMC guidance".

I didn't know that, Dr Mark.

I trust first year medical students are supplied with this information by 'touchy-feely' course providers on day one?

Dr Aust said...

What an epic balls-up.

However, while one can rightly blame Cardiff for the catastrophic foul-up over the marking, the "rescinding" of the degree after the fact is something that is almost certainly directly mandated by the GMC.

I would bet any money - based on my 20+ years in the system - that if a University found out they had made a minor marking mistake in a SCIENCE degree, and given a 2i to someone whose overall arithmetic mark was, say, 59.9% rather than the 60.0% required, the 2i awarded would stand. The argument you would hear (though not in public) would be:

"Well, it's almost certainly within the margin of error... and if we try and rescind it we will all end up in court... not worth the grief.. 2i."

Now, because medicine is a professional degree, and the stringency with passing exams (and hence with marks) is taken to be required to protect the public from doctors who have "not reached the required standard" etc etc., such mistakes are required to be treated differently.

None of which is to defend Cardiff's ineptitude, but they will not be allowed to "let it go" by the GMC.

Somehow this story makes me think again about the lobby in some quarters for a UK national qualifying / University exit for medical students...

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