More than 1,000 aspiring GPs around Australia have been dealt a brutal blow after a technical fault forced the cancellation of major online exams.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), the professional body behind the exams, blamed the cancellations on a “major outage” experienced by its external exam provider.

The technical fault essentially stopped people from being able to log in and do the Key Feature Problem exam on Friday.

As a result, the RACGP also cancelled Saturday’s Applied Knowledge Test (AKT).

“The decision to cancel the AKT as well is to make absolute certain the outage affecting our external exam provider will be resolved,” the RACGP said in a statement to trainee GPs over the weekend.

The exams, which take place twice a year, cost candidates $4660 per attempt.

They were originally scheduled for July of this year, but were delayed and moved online due to COVID-19.

Candidates must pass the exams to become a qualified GP.

The RACGP said the exam cancellations were a last resort and was not an easy decision to make.

“We know that you probably feel stressed, angry, fatigued and disappointed, and we deeply regret the impact of this, particularly after a COVID-enforced delay to sit these exams.

“We accept there is probably very little we can say at this point to make you feel better.”

As you can imagine, candidates are beyond frustrated with the cancellations. Many have taken to the RACGP’s Facebook page in anger, demanding reimbursement for people who, for example, have taken leave from work and poured money into child care costs.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has since called for reassurance and certainty from the RACGP.

“2020 has already been a year of terrible uncertainty for medical trainees due to COVID-19,” Dr Omar Khorshid, Australian Medical Association (AMA) President, said in a statement.

“A technology failure leading to exam cancellations at the last minute is the last thing that GP Registrars need.”

Dr Hash Abdeen, AMA Council of Doctors in Training Chair, said the rescheduling of exams need to be the top priority now.

“After many months of sacrifice and study, it’s distressing to see the lives of our GP trainees put on hold again,” he said, adding that the AMA was looking at how it could support trainee GPs through such a stressful and frustrating time.

It is imperative that we have answers for the affected trainees as soon as possible.

“Trainee wellbeing is extremely important to keep at the front of mind when dealing with a situation like this.”

This morning, Acting RACGP President Professor Ayman Shenouda once again apologised for the cancellations.

He also confirmed the next steps will be decided in a board meeting today.

“I can only imagine how difficult this must be for candidates and their families during a trying year,” he said.

No new dates have been announced yet.

Image: Scrubs