Attitudes to pre-employment competency screening

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Pre-employment competency screening (PECS) has been introduced in some regions in the UK for foundation applicants. There is no consensus on how the process should be run, and this has led to a variety of methods used between and within deaneries. This study aims to look at the acceptability and, in part, the educational impact of PECS in the North Western Foundation School.


An electronic survey was created and sent to all of the foundation applicants assigned to posts in the North Western Deanery. The survey covered attitudes to the PECS process and collected demographic details about their medical school of origin. Free-text comments were analysed for recurring themes by two of the investigators, and variances were discussed until common themes were agreed upon.


The questionnaire was sent to 555 candidates with 265 replies. Foundation doctors saw the identification of educational needs, assessment of competency, making provision for support and patient safety as the main purposes of PECS. A majority of respondents felt that PECS was a fair assessment of competencies (90%), and that the process was valuable (80.4%).


The results suggest that foundation doctors find the PECS process acceptable, and see it as an opportunity to identify educational needs and to be supported in weak areas. There are concerns about the validity of these assessments, and we have suggested recommendations for standardising PECS whilst acknowledging the need for further research.

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