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RCGP 'unjustifiable' plan to increase trainee membership fees provokes clash with BMA

GP trainees will have to pay more in RCGP membership fees in a bid to cut exam fees for those failing their MRCGP exams, the college has announced today.

It said that the membership fee for trainees will increase by £595 from August, but this will be offset by a reduction in the examination fees by £409.

This will benefit trainees who failed at their first attempt and will ‘ensure greater fairness’, the college said.

However, the BMA has come out strongly against the move, arguing that the rise is ‘unjustifiable’ and that there was no ‘meaningful consultation’ with the BMA.

The college has faced criticism from the BMA among others for the high exam fees, with the cost of one sitting of the CSA exam costing £1,737.

This was raised as an issue by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin in its judicial review against the college’s clinical skills assessment, arguing that this cost affected international graduates more because of their lower pass rates.

The RCGP told Pulse last year that it was considering lowering the cost of exams.

As a result of the changes, trainees who pass first time will pay slightly more than before, but the college has said his can be ‘offset by the substantial tax advantages negotiated by the college, whereby all tax paid on examination fees can now be reclaimed from HMRC via normal tax returns’.

But Dr Donna Tooth, GP trainee sub-committee chair, said the BMA was ‘extremely concerned’ with the changes, ‘as they represent another unjustifiable fee rise that trainees will have to bear and there is questionable evidence to suggest they are necessary’.

She added: We are particularly concerned that these rises are setting a precedent for ongoing increases for future cohorts of GPs at time when we are supposed to be engaged in a government backed recruitment campaign to attract more junior doctors into general practice.’

Dr Tooth said the BMA had ‘repeatedly attempted to get an explanation from the RCGP about how these changes are calculated’, adding: ‘It is disappointing that there was no meaningful consultation with trainees and the BMA, as our comments were requested only once the decision had been made.’

She added: ‘We will be asking the RCGP to explain this decision and ensure that the fee process is more transparent, so that trainees know what their fees are being spent on.’

RCGP honorary treasurer Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Fairness to all our trainees is the driving force for these changes and all trainees can be confident that they are being treated fairly and transparently.

 ‘Trainees who are less than full time will be eligible for a much simpler and, for the vast majority, cheaper package of fees, while trainees who find it harder to get through their training and need to sit the exam more than once in future will be paying significantly less overall.

 She added that the college ‘appreciate that those who pass first time will pay a little more’.

Dr Toby Holland, chair of the associates in training committee, said: ‘Membership and exam fees are critical for us as they are a significant financial burden for the majority of GP trainees so the committee will continue to do all it can to make sure they are as fair, balanced and proportionate as possible.’

Readers' comments (34)

  • Ed - can you check that you really mean increase BY £595 .

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  • A well spun story by the College. £595 - £406 still means a net gain to the RCGP of £181!!! The RCGP is still leeching off trainees and then expects us to go to the Tax Man with our begging bowl.

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  • PULSE:

    Could you write an open letter to the RCGP requesting an external forensic external audit on the RCGP's finances?

    I think it fair to say that there are legitimate concerns regarding high fees and how this organisation manages its finances.

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  • I assume that is membership increase of 595 in total rather than per year?

    @1:10 - the net gain (for the college)is ONLY for those trainees who pass the exam first time.
    If you pass second time the college will have a net loss of 217
    If you pass 3rd time there will be a loss of 623.
    etc etc.

    Essentially you are asking better trainees to subsidise failing trainees. I am not sure that is the right thing to do.

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  • ... so the committee will continue to do all it can to make sure they are as fair, balanced and proportionate as possible.’

    How about pull back on all non-core activities of the college and save us some money. From down here, it looks like a bloated membership services club endlessly trying to 'sell-on' it's wares. rant over.

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  • Sell that ridiculously lavish and expensiive building in central London and move to somewhere less expensive and geographicallly central in the UK (ie outside of the M25 ring road). Put this to a vote of your 'members' if you are in any doubt. Trainees especially are struggling financially and feel like they are being ripped off by another racket feeding off their backs.

    Agree with the above too. Scrap all non essential RCGP activities - the dinners, 5 star hotel expensive stays with drinks, the troughing etc

    And please. Record the CSA and have two examiners in line with an other 'democratic and civlised' country in the world.

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  • If the BMA feel the rise is unjustifiable it would perhaps they could demand an independent, external, forensic audit of the RCGP's finances. This could go back 10 years or more and in addition, look at expenses, exam fees and the huge amount of money the RCGP squandered on fighting a Judicial Review which could have been avoided if the RCGP had simpy agreed to make video recordings and had two examiners.

    This is topical in the light of what is happening at FIFA.

    If the RCGP declines to have its accounts independently forensically examined then the BMA should demand a Judicial Review. There appear to have been conflicts of interest on par with something out of the former Soviet Union.

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  • @1:40 remember, that's not a loss, it's just less profit. I agree, ask your stronger candidates to financially subsidise the weaker ones, seems an odd tactic at a time when there is a recruitment crisis and the changes to recruitment smack of scrapping the barrel rather than incentivising.

    As someone I hugely respect is keen of saying, it's funny how a college that is so keen on being patient-centred and pushes for shared care is so happy to hand down judgements and changes with absolutely zero consultation or consideration for those that it affects - the change in CSA booking dates fiasco springs to mind.

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  • give some credit to the rcgp - they are trying hard to solve the issues of recruitment and retention eg

    1. an unfair exam

    3. alienating all grassroot gps
    4. constantly creating higher barriers to entry
    5. instead of fighting the profession's corner they push forward non-GP specialities

    i propose renaming the to RCABGP (royal college of anyone but GPs)

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  • This comment has been moderated.

  • All I get in my post are RCGP plugged courses with the same 'keynote' speakers incestuously bathing in the membership fees of a struggling profession.
    STOP paying RCGP examiners for the CSA (no one asked examine) and let's see your accounts/taxis/hotel costs etc. to show trainees and GPs. Smells like FIFA.

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