Testing times, seeking answers and supporting trainees

22 May 2020

Seeking answers from the Welsh Government

In testing times, it is perhaps appropriate to dedicate a blog to tests of various kinds. 

During our regular meeting with the Welsh Government, Joint Chair of RCGP Wales, Peter Saul, and I raised two questions about testing.

The first related to the availability of the antigen test in general practice. Of course, patients who require testing for COVID-19 should be attending the dedicated testing centres or using the NHS Wales home test kit.

However, there are occasions when a patient presents at the surgery, possibly unaware that their symptoms could indicate a COVID-19 infection, and the GP will want to carry out a test.

Much the same way as the debate about availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) began with a focus on patients following the official route to medical help, and left us having to push for PPE to be issued to general practice, I feel it is important to lay down a marker at the start of the roll out of antigen testing, so that decision-makers are aware of the need to provide test kits to general practice.

Our second question focused on the emerging antibody test. I am keen to see how it will operate in practice and how effectively it can help the country begin to return to some form of normality.

Supporting our Associates in Training

Onto testing of the examination variety.

I appreciate that the disruption caused by COVID-19 and the lockdown have left our Associates in Training (AiTs) with a lot of questions.

It has not always been possible to provide immediate answers because the College is just one of the organisations involved in agreeing the arrangements for the Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners (MRCGP) qualification and for obtaining a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT).

In the last two weeks there have been updates on exam arrangements for those sitting the Clinical Skills Assessment (CSA) and Applied Knowledge Test (AKT). Correspondence has been sent to the trainees.

In Wales, we are working to ensure that our AiTs get the support and guidance they require for these new examination arrangements.

Peter and I will also be meeting with Dr Nicole Abel and Dr Sarah Allen, the AiT representatives on the RCGP Wales Council, on Friday evening to hear the thoughts and concerns of trainees. We are keen to support you during your training.

Remote Consulting Assessment in Welsh

One aspect of concern is whether the proposed Remote Consulting Assessment (RCA) will be available in Welsh.

RCGP Wales feels it is essential that this option is there, both in terms of communicating with the patient in their preferred language and to comply with the requirements of the Welsh Language Act.

It appears that the proposed arrangements for the RCA would require candidates to arrange consultations where first-language, Welsh-speaking patients were speaking their non-preferred language, and this would introduce subtle barriers in communication as well as potentially putting the patient less at ease.

The College in Wales has made representations for this issue to be addressed swiftly.


Post written by

Dr Mair Hopkin, Joint Chair of RCGP Wales

Dr Mair Hopkin qualified in 1980 and was a partner at the Old School Surgery in Pontyclun until 2019. She has served as Chair and Provost of the South East Wales Faculty, as well as being Faculty Representative to RCGP’s UK Council.

Mair has a keen interest in child development and children's and women’s health. She introduced a Well Baby clinic before it became part of the GP contract, and has co-authored a book on child health development in Wales. She has also developed an interest in medical education. She is currently an Associate Dean in the Wales Deanery.

She married a farmer and lived on a working farm for three decades. She has three children, one of whom is a GP, and four grandchildren. She is a Welsh learner.

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