A blog piece by Dr Sayed Aqeel Hussain MRCPsych, a Consultant Psychiatrist at the Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Srinagar Kashmir, India.

“Having passed my MRCPsych examination from UK, I moved back to my place of origin where I joined as a Consultant in the psychiatric institute of Kashmir valley. At that time I was not aware of any proposal of the College to expand the exam centres to various other countries besides Hong Kong.

Being a British Citizen with no restriction to work in UK, I regularly came back to UK to do various locums through a well reputed locum agency Athona, who provided me all support and help during my locums, as well to attend various conferences and to gather evidence in order to pass my appraisal and revalidation which was introduced by the GMC around that time. This in itself was a challenge as despite working in India for majority of the time, I have to gather evidence in order to prove that I was maintaining a professional standard as required by the GMC.

Having completed my training in the UK I wanted to contribute to improving mental health services in Kashmir. I saw this wish being fulfilled through the Royal College which had developed a special interest group of International and Voluntary Psychiatrists whose aim was to contribute to improving and developing services around the world. I met the president of the College, Professor Sue Bailey who encouraged and reassured me of all possible support on behalf of the College in contributing to improving service delivery in the valley of Kashmir.

As there is a shortage of psychiatrists in the subcontinent, the best approach suggested was to empower primary care workers in identifying mental health problems, treating where possible and referring appropriately. The World Health Organisation (WHO) had already produced a validated mhGAP intervention guide which was adopted as the basic tool for delivering training. The WHO in Geneva was generous enough to provide copies of the manual which were used to train more than 100 professionals including doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers, psychologists and allied professionals by a team of 12 professionals who were delegated by the royal college of psychiatry.

A report in the journal of special interest group can be found here.

In order to improve service delivery at the secondary level, it was necessary to increase the number of psychiatrists and to provide the opportunity to doctors who aspire to be psychiatrists and were looking for an opportunity to work, experience and train in psychiatry in UK which has one of the best developed psychiatric services in the world.

At the moment we have limited postgraduate seats in India and the number of psychiatrists is just 2percent compared to number needed as per population. In order to increase manpower at the secondary level, the college decided the increase the opportunity to doctors in India to sit in MRCPsych exam by taking the examination to India. This proposal was supported by Prof Dinesh Bhugra who is the president of World Psychiatric Association and a joint workshop was conducted in this regard at the National institute of Mental Health and neuro sciences Bangalore which was attended by myself, Prof Dinesh Bhugra, Dr Wendy Burns Dean of the Royal College of psychiatry and Dr Peter Bowie chief examiner of the Royal college of psychiatry. The workshop was attended by a large number of psychiatrists from the institute who supported the idea of bringing the MRCPsych exam to India and were looking forward to it. The college has also simplified the eligibility criteria to sit for the exam. Passing the MRCPsych examination helps doctors to bypass the basic plab route to GMC registration and will give psychiatrists opportunity to work, train and experience the working system of UK. They can even work for short periods of time and in this regard locum agencies like Athona can be quite helpful in guiding and helping with regards to work placement.  Proposed first theory exam is most likely to be in 2015 followed by CASC exam in 2017.

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Dr Hussain with Peter Bowie chief examiner of the royal college at MRCPsych workshop at NIMHANS


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Dr Hussain with Prof Dinesh Bhugra ex-president of the Royal College and President of World Psychiatric Association

The Dean of the college Dr Wendy Burns and chief examiner Peter Bowie agreed that more interactive workshops should be conducted in other institutes of India. It was also suggested that students need to be helped in preparing for the exam and mock exams of similar nature as are being conducted in the UK can be started in India in order to help the doctors to prepare effectively.it is quite important to get to know the exam system of the college as it is different from the one being followed in India

Analysis of the data of MRCPsych exam shows that the pass rate for psychiatrists who had their primary qualification overseas was less compared to people of same ethnic origin who had trained in the UK as they were familiar to the exam pattern during their undergraduate course. Introducing the mock exams can give an insight into the exam system and improve the chances of passing the examination more. (photo 3 and4 here ).

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Dr Hussain with Prof Sir Simon new President of the Royal College


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Dr Hussain with Prof Femi Oyeboda who was the chief examiner and instrumental in restructuring the new MRCPsych examination. He is currently one of the authors of Royal College CPD online.

Below is the data regarding the candidates who sat MRCPsych examination. The results clearly indicate it is important to be aware of the examination system before sitting the examination.

In my meeting with Dr Peter Bowie chief examiner, it was agreed that it was important to have mock exams/refresher courses in India to help psychiatrists prepare for the MRCPsych examination.

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In order to get feedback and increase awareness about the MRCPsych exam in India I have decided to conduct several workshops across various psychiatric institutes of India and the outcome and feedback will be fed back to college and institutes in order to make the MRCPsych exam in India a success.

Another important component of the workshop will be revalidation which has recently been launched in UK. The mag form is a very good tool which has been validated by the college revalidation team as containing all components required by GMC for successful revalidation. This mag form is being used by Athona the locum agency and this helped me to successfully get appraised despite working in India most of the time.

The team will also give advice with regards to Visa related issues in order to work in UK.

I am grateful to Athona who have kindly agreed to support these workshops by providing logistic support and members of their team to help coordinate the workshop effectively.”

If you would like to find out more, please do so via e-mail or call 01277217777.