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The 6th MRCG(Int) Development Days were held this year between 22 and 24 May, hosted by the Royal College of General Practitioners at Princes Gate in London. Invited participants from sister colleges and associations came from as far as Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Oman, Brunei, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Kosovo, Malta, and Turkey, reflecting the wide and diverse interest in this RCGP project.
The seminar was preceded by hands-on pre-conference workshops on 21 May, facilitating capacity building through test-writing exercises, with the practical outcome of producing material for the MRCGP(Int) test banks. Topics included multiple-choice question writing for applied knowledge assessment, and scenario writing and rehearsal for clinical skills assessment and OSCE. The sessions were facilitated by Dr Mei Ling Denney, Dr Adrian Freeman, Dr Anwar Khan, and Mr Richard Wakeford. These workshops were very useful and practical, since relevant primary care scenarios were presented, discussed, and developed.
There followed 3 days of reflective discussion and frank analysis of the essence of the MRCGP(Int). As expected, the focus was on assessment methodologies, and particularly on design, implementation and results, and critical appraisal of the outcomes of such processes. Invited lecturers from the RCGP and from various participant countries reported on the current achievements in assessment of postgraduate family medicine, or on developments in family practice and health systems which may have an impact on how one may perceive standards or assess one against them.
Highlights included the lecture on ‘The new RCGP Curriculum for GP training in the UK’ indicating that curriculum development is a dynamic process. Consequently, even in ‘model’ countries such as the UK the need for change in the curriculum and in assessment techniques is felt. In this particular case the influence of the European academy of teachers of family medicine, EURACT, and its new international educational agenda for family medicine was quite evident. The new RCGP curriculum is primarily conceptualised as a programme of academic support, and itemises the principles of a sound assessment framework to reflect that primary need. The lecture by Dr Nayeem Azim, ‘Triumph in the face of adversity: Developing a Primary Care Training Centre in Kabul, Afghanistan’ reflected his bubbling enthusiasm and demonstrated a case-study of ‘how to do it’ despite a clear lack of resources and limited support by national bodies. The development days offered many other opportunities to share in cutting-edge expertise and hands-on experience, and to participate in rich discussions of complex and emerging themes in the field of assessment of family medicine. Much of the discussion was held in small groups, which also encouraged useful networking of attendees.
The MRCGP(Int) shows promise as a roadmap for various countries striving to train high-quality family doctors. The focus is on a standardised assessment framework which is adapted to the diverse perspectives and challenges reflecting diversity in culture, ethnicity, geography, disease, and healthcare systems among the interested countries. The implementation of such standards involves political decisions of participant colleges, besides substantial resource expenditure. These are large and expensive steps, and many participants required more substantial evidence on a direct relationship between assessment results and doctor performance before committing themselves. There was also a call for more direct involvement of international graduates in the decision-making processes of the RCGP.
The authors enjoyed attending the MRCGP(Int) development days this year. We met and shared experiences with colleagues from all over the world, who echoed our interest in improving and maintaining high standards of training in the domain. We are delighted that the RCGP is supporting its vibrant International Department to develop and maintain these contracts, and thank John Howard, Jenny Stock and the rest of the International Department, as well as the excellent lecturers and facilitators, for making it all happen.