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Posted on Dec 24, 09:51AM | IANS
Hundreds of foreign doctors, including those from India and Pakistan, are routinely failing key medical exams in Britain, The Mail on Sunday said.
Success rates are so poor that medical associations want doctors to be allowed six attempts at passing the tests rather than the current four.
The revelation raises fears the trainee medics, mainly from India, Pakistan and Nigeria, are not suitably qualified to treat patients despite spending three years working for the NHS before taking the exam.
Until they pass the exams, which qualify them to practise independently as hospital physicians, trainees continue to see patients - under supervision - in placements at hospitals and GP surgeries.
Figures show that foreign doctors are substantially more likely to fail than UK graduates, with communication cited as one of the problems, according to the newspaper.
While just nine percent of British doctors fail to pass the knowledge and practical exams, more than 63 percent of foreign doctors do not reach the standard to pass.
The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) said it had not ruled out taking legal action against the British medical colleges which set the exams.
But their claims have been refuted by leading UK specialists who say a recent study showed "no substantial effects of gender or ethnicity on examiner/candidate interactions", and that passing the exams is dependent on having the appropriate skills.
Joyce Robins, co-director of campaign group Patient Concern, said: "This is scandalous. If a doctor can go on failing they shouldn't be treating patients in the NHS and that should be stopped.
"There has to be a cut-off point and four attempts is too many."
About 3,000 doctors a year take their final professional GP exams, set by the Royal College of GPs, The Mail on Sunday said.
Of the Indian doctors taking the test, 63 percent failed at the first attempt. For those from Pakistan, there was a 62 percent failure rate, while 68 percent of Nigerian doctors failed at the first try.