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MRCS concession hope

New Delhi, Jan. 15: Britain’s Royal College of Surgeons is examining a proposal to exempt postgraduate Indian doctors from one of two exams they now need to take to acquire an MRCS, a stepping stone towards the FRCS.

Senior Royal College of Surgeons officials visiting India have said Indian surgeons who already have postgraduate degrees or diplomas such as the MS or the DNB could be exempted from Part A of the two-part exam leading to the award of an MRCS.

“We have not exempted anyone yet but we are impressed with the MS and DNB and are looking at this option,” Royal College of Surgeons president Norman Williams said after meetings with surgeons here.

Part A and Part B of the MRCS now typically take 18 to 24 months, an Indian doctor said. If an exemption from Part A is granted, it will reduce the time needed to complete the MRCS by about a year.

The MRCS, or membership examination of the Royal College of Surgeons, serves as an entry point for specialist training in surgical practice. The FRCS or the fellowship is the exit exam signalling a superior level of achievement.

Indian doctors who have obtained an MBBS or postgraduate qualifications such as an MS or a DNB need neither the MRCS nor the FRCS to practise as surgeons in India. Many, however, view the FRCS as adding value to their qualifications.

But British and Indian surgeons cautioned that the Royal College of Surgeons was likely to rigorously examine the standards of the various MS and DNB programmes before granting any exemptions.

“The standards of surgical training are highly variable in India,” said Samiran Nundy, a senior gastrointestinal surgeon and dean of research at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital's postgraduate education and training centre.

Royal College of Surgeons officials said the college would also consider exempting individual doctors from India who have enough experience and PG qualifications from the MRCS altogether and let them take the FRCS directly.

“A doctor in India who already has a postgraduate MCh qualification plus say eight or ten years’ experience as a full-fledged surgeon may not need to take the MRCS,” said Michael Parker, chairman of the surgical examinations board, Royal College of Surgeons.

An MCh is a super speciality surgery degree, which can be obtained only after gaining an MS. “They could take the FRCS directly, and if they’re good they’ll qualify,” Parker said.

Royal College of Surgeons officials said such exemptions, if at all, would be given only to specific individuals.