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New exam marking system for final year med students ‘chaotic failure’

Scanning errors wreaking havoc with training place allocations

Caroline White

Friday, 08 March 2013

Eight medical students allocated foundation school places before application test scanning errors emerged have been told they no longer have them.

The eight are among 148 final year students whose foundation school allocations changed after problems scanning the new SJT (situational judgment test) answer papers emerged. The SJT was used in the application process for the first time this year.

The problem only emerged on February 26—the day after foundation school training place allocations had been made.

BMA medical students committee co-chair Will Seligman said: “It is shocking that eight students who just two weeks ago were told that they had a job may now have to wait several months to find out where it will be.”

He added: “The [UK Foundation Programme Office] (UKFPO) must ensure that students are offered proper support during this period, especially any who may have lost out financially.”

The allocations of 148 students changed—equivalent to 2% of the 7535 applicants. Of these, 71 were allocated to foundation schools they had ranked more highly during the application process. The other 77 were allocated to schools lower down their list of preferences.

Eleven applicants who had originally been placed on a reserve list because there were more applicants than foundation programme places available have now been allocated to schools.

Eight students originally allocated places are now on the reserve list, and must wait for other candidates to withdraw or fail their exams, or for the government to create the extra places it promised.

The earliest date they can find out about places is April 30, when the UKFPO will allocate any vacancies that have risen to the first batch of reserve list candidates. But the reserve list of 295 students might not be cleared until July 24 – just days before training is due to start.

Mr Seligman said it was unacceptable that nearly 150 final year students had had their first jobs changed “because of a chaotic failure of an exam-marking process.” He added: “Poor workforce planning by the Department of Health has led to a situation in which the foundation programme is oversubscribed year on year.”

The BMA will be writing to health secretary Jeremy Hunt to express concerns about the situation. And the Medical Schools Council, which commissioned the company responsible for the scanning errors, has asked Health Education England to carry out an independent review of the problem.

UKFPO national director Derek Gallen has apologised unreservedly for the issue, and promised that the delay would not affect junior doctors starting their jobs in August.

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