21 September 2012

Good grief, what has Una been up to now?

Image credit: Pulsetoday.co.uk
 I don't think I've ever suggested to an examination candidate that they should make sure they don't act "overtly gay" in an examination situation, and certainly if I was examining a doctor in a clinical exam setting, I really hope I would not let the doctor's personal mannerisms affect my judgement as to their clinical competence.

But then I'm not a GP. According to Dr Una Coales, high profile former TV doc and former candidate for the presidency of the Royal College of General Practitioners, and current RCGP Council member, the College is a right-wing conservative organisation, and if you want to pass your exams, you need to straighten up, soldier.

Well, if an exam candidate asked me, I would certainly tell them they need to be presentable and professional, as well as courteous, confident - and of course, when it comes down to it, clinically competent. But Una is in some hot water [Daily Mail] because of her comments which appeared in her self-published "Dr Una Coales's MRCGP CSA Book". It makes the twin assertions that "overtly gay" people need to change their mannerisms if they want to pass exams, and that the RCGP is "right wing" - both of these seem entirely wrongheaded. Several punters have weighed in on the matter, including Dr Christian Jessen (presenter of C4's "Embarrassing Bodies") who "wanted to weep" when he read about the issue.

Anyway, the RCGP are looking into things and have issued a statement clarifying that no, they are not homophobic. I'm not entirely sure what all the fuss is about in that there is clearly no actual malice in Una's writings, however ill-advised. You could argue that as a council member of the RCGP she should jolly well know better, and indeed be in a position to change a "right wing conservative" culture in the College if that were actually real (even though Una is the secretary of "Conservative Health", a real right wing conservative lobby group in the health sector - go figure).

However, I'm particularly upset because she advises foreign candidates for the exam to emulate Scottish or Welsh accents in order to neutralise bias, but for some unfathomable reason neglects the beautiful Northern Irish accent, which would certainly allow any prospective candidate not just to pass, but to do so with flying colours. Provided, of course, they can actually do the job and put their patient first, which is, after all, what the highly professional examiners at the RCGP try to assess.

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