Imperial College School of Medicine (ICSM) were forced to cancel a resit for final year medical students last week less than 12 hours before it was due, citing an “exam security breach”.

The resit of the Practical Assessment of Clinical Examination Skills (PACES) was scheduled to take place in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on the morning of Thursday 31st August. However, the 30 students who were due to sit it received an email after 11pm on the evening of Wednesday 30th telling them the examination needed to be postponed due to a breach that made “running the resit impossible”.

It is unclear what the exact nature of the security breach was, but a statement from the ICSMSU said that it occurred in the “late evening”, and that they were informed by the medical school shortly after 10pm. A representative from the medical school told Felix that “affected students were informed within hours of the discovery of the breach, as soon as practically possible”; they assured students that “there was absolutely no safe and fair alternative to the action taken”.

An ICSM representative told Felix that “Measures have to be taken to ensure that venues for clinical exams are appropriately sealed until the exam itself. In this instance, the School was not satisfied that measures were adequately in place for the duration. After careful consideration, including of the need to uphold the highest academic standards and ensure the safety of future patients, the School decided to postpone the exam to allow for its reconfiguration. We will be reviewing the security measures for practical exams.”

The final year of ICSM’s MBBS course began on the 24th July, less than a month after the first PACES examination; students who are awaiting the PACES resit have already completed six weeks of their final year without knowing whether they will be able to continue.

In a statement, the ICSMSU told Felix that “this is an unfortunate set of circumstances that happened very late in the day and we appreciate the hard work of the School in trying to resolve this issue as quickly as possible, with the minimum amount of disruption to the students. ICSMSU will be working closely with the School of Medicine over the coming days to ensure the students affected have the support they need and that the rescheduling of this exam is done as smoothly as possible.”

The PACES examination consists of six 15-minute ‘stations’, in which the student will take a history and/or perform an examination on a simulated patient, and then discuss management options with an examiner. The examination, which all fifth-year medical students at ICSM must complete alongside two written examinations, tests a number of skills, including clinical skills, professionalism, and “patient-centred approach”.

An ICSM representative issued the following statement: “The School understands that this is distressing and frustrating for the students involved. We have apologised to them and offered our support.”

The resit of the PACES examination has been rescheduled for the 16th September.