Final year medical students across the UK are in turmoil after a nation-wide scandal involving the Foundation Programme Application System (FPAS). On Monday 25 February at 9am, finalists across the country found out which foundation school (or regional organisation) they had been allocated on completing their degree. However, less than 48 hours later, the students received some distressing news on the FPAS website:
‘We regret to inform you that the Medical Schools Council (MSC) has brought it to the attention of the UK Foundation Programme Office (UKFPO) that there is a potential error in the scanning process of the ‘Situational Judgement Test’ (SJT) answer sheets that may have affected the scores for some applicants.
Due to the nature of the potential issue, the UKFPO has made the decision to manually remark all the affected answer sheets. It is possible that some SJT scores will be increased as a consequence of the manual check, and if this is the case, the UKFPO may have to re-run the allocation algorithm.’
The Situational Judgement Test was only introduced this year but played a huge part in the allocation of medical students to foundation schools. In October, finalists had to rank all the UK foundation schools in order of preference. They were then given a score out of 100 by UKFPO, 50 points were awarded for ‘Educational Performance Measures’, based on students’ exam results and other academic achievements. The remaining 50 points are allocated solely from how the student performed in the SJT. Though the SJT has been used for several years for GP training applications, it is the first time it has ever been used for medical students.
Students now face an agonising wait to find out whether they will be re-allocated after having only recently come to terms with their original allocation. Medical students spend the first two years of their lives as doctors at the foundation school they are allocated and many have reacted with outrage. UCL final year medical student Clovis Rau said, ‘This is very disappointing. The majority of students have waited almost three months for our results and to be allocated to a foundation school, only to be told 36 hours later that the job we were promised may no longer be guaranteed. This failing has done nothing but add to what is already an incredibly stressful year.’ Others have started asking questions about the failings of the bodies involved. UCL student Oliver Thomas asked, ‘Why was this problem not spotted earlier though, and why did the MSC raise it now? Have disgruntled applicants asked for remarks and has that unearthed it?’
The fiasco comes just weeks after the UKFPO and the Medical Schools Council declared the SJTs to have been very successful. A news article on the FPAS website branding the first ever round of the tests a ‘huge success’ has since been taken down with many students now denouncing the application process as a complete farce. Another UCL medical student, Tim Davies, commented, ‘After they were so keen to call the procedure a success, you would think they would have been a little more careful than to make such a massive cock up.’ UKFPO has stated its aim to inform students of the outcome by the end of next week if the ‘allocation algorithm’ has to be re-run. In the mean time, medical students can only try to continue revising for their finals without letting this additional stress affect them too severely.