FINAL year medical students have been left infuriated by the "shambolic" delivery of a key test which they must pass to train as a doctor.

Social media erupted with complaints of booking slots for the Situational Judgement Test (SJT) running out or being given appointments for testing centres hundreds of miles from where they live.

One Glasgow medical student said she has to pay £300 for a train ticket to sit the exam in Harrogate next month, while others face travelling from Glasgow to Wigan or England to Inverness, despite public health warnings to stay in your local area to reduce the spread of Covid.

Doctors' trade union, the BMA, said it was aware of "serious concerns" around the SJT delivery this year, which affects thousands of medical students UK-wide.

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The two-hour 20 minute test is set nationally by the UK Foundation Programme Office (FPO) and must be completed by all students applying for foundation training - the two-year period after university that graduates spend working in the NHS as junior doctors.

A satisfactory score is needed and there no option to appeal.

In past years, arrangements for the test were organised locally by universities, but due to the pandemic delivery was outsourced to Minnesota-based firm, Pearson Vue, so that students could sit the test remotely online from home.

Students were initially warned that they could be failed, with no option to re-sit, if they suffered an IT glitch or their internet connection failed - although FPO now insists this is not the case.

Pearson Vue has already been at the centre of controversy over technical problems relating to online barrister exams in England.

Many young medics were reluctant to take the risk and tried to book a slot to sit the SJT at one of Pearson Vue's UK test centres instead.

Social distancing restrictions mean the number of in-person tests available has been cut substantially, leaving students with no option but to book wherever they can find a place, even if that is hundreds of miles away from where they live and study medicine.

This has had the knock on effect of reducing availability for people in that area, who are then also forced to look further afield.

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Students described the process this week as "shambolic" and descending into "mass panic" after the UKFPO released slots three days earlier than expected, at 6am on November 9.

On Twitter, Chris Smith, a co-chair of the BMA medical students' committee, said this was particularly galling as Pearson had given assurances that lack of capacity at centres "wouldn't be a problem".

He said: "We've seen people having to travel miles or stay overnight.

"[It's] crazy that so many people are going to miss out on SJT booking slots because UKFPO decide to not announce what time bookings are at - then open the bookings in the middle of the night."

Another final year medical student, Mandy Gill, tweeted that the booking process had been "absolutely horrendous".

She said: "Final year medical students should not be concerned about where to take a compulsory exam to gain entry into [Foundation Year 1]."

Natalie Clark, a final year medical student in Glasgow, tweeted: "I'm still not over the fact I have time travel to Harrogate to sit my SJT and when I went to book the train I couldn't get one for cheaper than £300.

"It's a month in advance and I should be able to sit it in Glasgow."

There were also concerns that students with disabilities were not being given priority to choose a place and time convenient for them, and that applications for "reasonable adjustments" to enable students with special needs - such as dyslexia - to sit the test online were not being registered.

Lewis O’Connor, chair of the BMA’s Scottish Medical Students Committee, said: “We are aware of these issues and are particularly concerned about the impact this is having on final year medical students – particularly disabled candidates who have had issues in securing reasonable adjustments with their booking.

"The lack of communication from the UKFPO when the booking portal opened has understandably caused a lot of stress among students trying to book their test.

"The BMA raised these concerns directly with the UKFPO and made clear it is vital that all those who have successfully applied for adjustments have these arrangements upheld and that no student is disadvantaged.

"We have now received a commitment from UKFPO that they are taking these issues very seriously and are urgently working to resolve them.”

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In a statement, UKFPO apologised and said it was working with Pearson Vue "to resolve the SJT bookings and reasonable adjustments issues".

It said: "We are taking these issues seriously and are working on solutions and clarifications as a matter of urgency."

UKFPO said it is "working with Pearson Vue to look at extra capacity at certain locations, subject to the current Covid-19 restrictions across the UK".

It added that it would be up to each candidate to ensure their computer equipment, webcam, internet connection, and earphones met requirements in advance, but that students would not be failed for IT glitches outwith their control.

It said: "Should there be a technical failure on the day of the test outside an applicant’s control, such as loss of a normally reliable internet connection, this would qualify as an extenuating circumstance."

An independent review has already been ordered into legal exams run by Pearson Vue.

The Bar Standards Board, which regulates barrister training in England and Wales, contracted the US firm to deliver tests remotely in August due to the pandemic.

Technical problems left around 500 students unable to complete the exams, with some candidates complaining that they had to urinate into buckets because they were not allowed toilet breaks.

There was also criticism that some requests for reasonable adjustments were not handled properly.

Legal academic, Professor Becky Huxley-Binns, of Hull University, has been appointed to review what happened, including BSB’s decision making, communications strategy and relationship with Pearson Vue.

The Herald asked Pearson Vue to comment on the delivery of the SJT, but it did not respond.