Friday, 22 July 2011

Foundation Programme : FPAS, the basics

[This information is now out of date - please see]

Hey gang. I'm doing some research about the foundation programme today* because the applications are slowly sneaking up on me, and I need to get some things straight in my head. I'm hoping that Seph's going to help me a little bit, because she's just jumped through all of these particular hoops.

I'm planing to start off with the basics of how applications work (because every time I think I have it straight I end up thinking "but what the hell is a foundation school?"** and that's me back to square one). I'm using the 2012 Foundation Applicant's handbook (available here) for reference. Note, this post should not be considered the final word on anything, this is only a summary of my understanding. Refer to the handbook or other official documentation. Thanks =)

Application Form
You will register on FPAS between 3 and 10 Oct, ready to complete the application form between 10 and 21 Oct. The form consists of :

Personal Information - unscored : includes address etc, but also whether you want to link applications, and if you want to disclose an illness or disability (which I'll discuss tomorrow)

Qualifications - unscored : degrees awarded and such - also what you've been up to if you've not gone straight from med school into F1/F2

Clinical Skills - unscored : a tick list of skills supposedly so that your employer knows what you need to cover during F1/F2. I wonder if anyone actually looks at it?

Equal Opportunities - unscored : for the foundation school to see whether they're getting a good enough mix. Doesn't seem to include sexuality, which is odd as most forms like this seem to.

References - unscored : one doctor who can talk about your clinical skills, and one from someone within the med school (they have from 16 Dec-24 Feb to do it, but basically if you don't have 2 for your employer by August you can't start work). The list of questions they'll be asked is available in the handbook, one is of particular relevance here, which I will discuss tomorrow.

Preferences - unscored : you have to sort every foundation school into order of preference.

Questions - this is the only scored bit : 1) Education Achievements - other degrees, publications etc are scored up to a maximum of 10 points. 2) 5 questions, requiring a 200 word answer, which are related to the "Person Specification", which are worth up to 10 points each. The scoring of these seems to have no rhyme or reason, which will explain why all the people that you think are the best in your year won't get a job in the first round.

Quartiles - as far as I know, these don't go on the form and supplied by your medical school. Basically, you get points out of 40 depending on where you stand within your class, which takes you up to a score out of 100 - you cannot appeal this score. Irritatingly enough for me this will mean that the last assessment which will count towards this is 3rd year exams, which will be more than 2 years ago when I apply. Finals happen after application, and in terms of F1/F2 all that matters is pass/fail.

What next?
If you score high enough to get a place in your favourite foundation school then that's you. Otherwise you move down the list until you end up in your favourite of the foundation schools that you score highly enough to get into. (I believe this is a slightly different system to last year)

By 8 Dec if all goes to plan you will be told you have a place at your favourite foundation school. Otherwise you'll be told that you're on the reserve list, and what will happen next. I don't really understand the explanation of it. Once you have a foundation school, you apply for actual jobs - the system for doing this differs from place to place. Some have interviews, some have to rank every.single.job. in order of preference, some have it easy... You will find out your job on 15 Feb, unless you are on the reserve list, in which case you will find out between May and July.

Apparently, at some point this year we're also supposed to fit in a Situational Judgement Test, as a pilot for next year's applicants. I believe this will be an hour-long written paper. (Will extra time be allowed I wonder?) They're also piloting a new score - the Education Performance Measure - which I think will just involve them doing calculations based on information about us they already have.

*Foundation programme = first two years of postgraduate training out of medical school, aka F1 and F2
**Foundation School = not an actual school - made up of all the med schools, deaneries, hospitals, NHS trusts etc in a given area (Scotland, Wales and N Ireland are all foundation schools, England is split into regions). To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what their role actually is.

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