Only 16 per cent of migrant doctors were approved to practice in Sweden following the National Board’s first trial test for doctors from outside Europe.
Contrary to expectations that the migrant doctors would struggle most with a section testing their knowledge of scientific language in English, their performance in all the other categories was worse. All the questions were multiple choice.
Umeå University was commissioned by the National Board of Health to develop and then implement a new test for physicians trained outside the European Union (EU). The assessment features theoretical and partial practical components and is designed to test the knowledge and skills required to practice medicine in Sweden.
Once the test is fully approved, results will be passed from the university to the National Board, which will then decide on the next step. The first trial cohort was comprised of 58 doctors from overseas, of which just nine were approved as being fit to practice medicine in Sweden.
A section of the test which requires doctors comprehend and draw conclusions from a scientific text presented in English drew concern that it would be too difficult. The man responsible for writing the sections of the test which measure theoretical knowledge said this area actually turned out to be the migrants’ strong point.
“On the contrary, it turned out that the interpretation of a scientific article was the part that was easiest for [the foreign doctors]”, Magnus Hultin disclosed in a press release.
The exam questions were constructed by 50 people from the university’s school of medicine. They are in the process of reassessing the questions that they set and have now judged a number of them to have more than one correct answer, along with removing several questions, which they fear could be misinterpreted.
Fears over the competence of migrant doctors is also a concern in Britain. It was revealed in January that three out of four doctors who were struck off in 2015 were from overseas.
The General Medical Council (GMC) in 2012 assured the public that they would take action to ensure Britons’ safety, after it emerged migrant doctors are five times more likely to be struck off than doctors trained in Britain.
However, the chairman of the British International Doctors Association insisted the grim figures are as a result of “institutional racism”, and Brits’ “subconscious bias” towards foreign doctors.
The body’s vice-chairman added that “white decision-makers”, and “poor support” for ethnic minority doctors are also to blame for the data showing they are far more likely to put patients at risk.