This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Read the latest issue online

A faulty production line

RCGP urged to explain £10m net income from MRCGP over five years

Exclusive The GPC has called for talks with the RCGP over the £10m net income it has made from trainees taking the MRCGP exam in the past five years, Pulse can reveal.

An analysis of the RCGP annual accounts from 2010 to 2014 reveals that the college has earned on average £2.1m a year from exams after direct costs are taken into account.

The BMA has said it is going to meet with the college regarding the transparency of their exam fees, and said they were concerned that trainees were being made to fund the college’s activities.

But the college insisted that the exam was ‘cost neutral’ and the additional income is used for other overheads related to the exam.

It comes after the college increased the costs of membership for trainees last week in order to reduce exam fees - a decision that was criticised by the BMA.

A Pulse analysis of Charity Commission data shows that the college had a net income of more than £2.8 million from exams last year, when income from exams hit £8.3m and costs were £5.6m.

The overall net income for all the college’s activities last year stood at £2.3m, after costs of £37.5m.

Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, honorary treasurer for the RCGP, said: ‘The figures only indicate the obvious costs of examinations and do not take into account the considerable overheads involved with running a professional licensing examination, such as the MRCGP assessment.

‘The exam is cost neutral in that any income generated is wholly spent on costs associated with essential aspects of the delivering the MRCGP, without which it could not adequately function or develop in line with ongoing reviews of systems and adherence to evolving GMC requirements.’

She said that this includes the ‘organisation of committees to oversee exam development and quality management’, as well as the ‘development of guidance and new exam tools, equality and diversity reviews, and ongoing engagement with trainees and trainers.’

She added: ‘Some indirect costs of the exam, for example running and maintenance of our CSA exam centre, are funded by different departments across the College and are recorded as such, therefore making it difficult to provide a meaningful or accurate explanation without sharing confidential information, such as that about salaries or staffing arrangements, and in some cases, commercially sensitive, data.’

The BMA told Pulse that they would be meeting with the RCGP to discuss the transparency of their fees for trainees, and reiterated their call for clarity on how income from exams was spent.

A spokesperson said: ‘We are concerned about the rising fee costs that are now being borne by GP trainees and the transparency around how the income generated from the fees is being spent.’

‘We do appreciate that in a scheme this large there are going to be significant administration costs, but GP trainees need to have confidence they are getting value for money. We are meeting the RCGP to put our concerns directly to them and to urge greater openness in this entire area.’

The BMA has already called the college’s plan to hike its trainee membership fee by £595 a year ‘unjustifiable’, though the RCGP says reducing exam fees by £409 per attempt will make it fairer.

This is particularly important for black and minority ethnic trainees who have a lower pass rate for the Clinical Skills Assessment component of the MRCGP.

The difference in pass rate was used as a core part of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin’s call for a judicial review of the MRCGP, which found the college processes were not discriminatory, but did call on them to address the different CSA success rates between white and non-white graduates.

Please note that this article was amended at 6pm on 15 June to reflect that the RCGP regards the figures provided to the Charity Commission as net income - and not profit.

RCGP exam income and costs 2010-2014


 IncomeCostsNet income
2014 £    8,381,508.00 £  5,633,833.00 £  2,747,675.00
2013 £    8,281,833.00 £  5,111,538.00 £  3,170,295.00
2012 £    7,525,674.00 £  5,883,483.00 £  1,642,191.00
2011 £    6,504,942.00 £  4,700,789.00 £  1,804,153.00
2010 £    5,798,900.00 £  4,471,545.00 £  1,327,355.00
Total £  36,492,857.00 £25,801,188.00 £10,691,669.00


Source: UK Charity Commission


Samsung HD TV - win - online

Take Pulse’s June survey

Want to win a Samsung Smart HD TV? Then take Pulse’s multi-topic survey covering a range of areas affecting general practice.

It should take just a couple of minutes to complete, and will help Pulse gain a vital insight into the views of the profession. 

Readers' comments (145)

  • Una Coales. Retired NHS GP.

    When I was a RCGP council rep and college trustee, and got nowhere with the college executive committee or the BMA GP trainee subcommittee, I went up the ladder and sought advice from the Charities Commission. For the benefit of all GP trainees paying exorbitant exam fees, here is their response:

    'The issue of charging/ examination fees is not one that the Commission has the jurisdiction to address or intervene in. Trustees collectively manage the affairs of their charity and, unless they are acting unlawfully, the Commission is specifically precluded from trying to substitute its views about what might be the best option in any given circumstance for the trustees' decision on which is the best option (s1 Charities Act 1993 - this talks about the Commission not becoming involved in the administration of a charity). Provided their chosen option is within the range of those that are lawful, the trustees have the "final say" on which is appropriate. Their responsibilities and duties in reaching a decision are outlined in our publication CC3 The Essential Trustees. Amongst those responsibilities is making sure that the decision is an informed decision (taking account of all relevant factors, and of professional advice where appropriate).

    In the particular case of the examination fees the issues you are concerned about appear to be:

    that the charges are too high (particularly compared to "similar" organisations). The Commission has no basis (and no jurisdiction) to identify what should be the "benchmark" for charging. The charges made by other bodies might be a relevant factor, but probably only one of many to be considered in making an informed decision;

    that the College is in a "monopolistic" position (and implicitly is not constrained in its charging by "market" considerations). This appears to be a plain fact (with no value judgement attached) but again it does not result in the Commission having the jurisdiction to enquire into, or direct, the charity's charging policies: if there is no legal framework constraining the charges then we have no basis to view the charges as unlawful;

    that the College is "misleading" students by indicating that the need to raise charges is linked to the charity being in a loss making position. You have not provided evidence of this statement/ representation to students. It certainly appears to be the case from the last accounts submitted that the charity was not, overall, in a loss making position.'

    Thank you again Pulse for showing the evidence in 2015 that the College was and is in a net income/net profit position from the MRCGP exam and I am sorry that the AKT and CSA exam fees kept rising and rising for cash-strapped GP trainees.

    I moved on from fighting for exam fee reduction to fighting for a fair CSA for BMEs/IMGs. The College kept me very busy seeking transparency and accountability for all its members!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Let's hope the GPC are looking at this article and the evidence presented above.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • At Dr una coales

    Thank you for all of your information, hard work and sacrifice. All on our behalf. You've suffered so much for trying to obtain transparency and equality.

    Also thanks for the advice earlier regarding MRCGP. I won't pay the RCGP a penny more for membership but will CONTINUE TO HANG MY CERTIFICATE IN MY SURGERY AND USE MY QUALIFICATION lets see if they have the guts to come after me!! It would probably only hasten their demise as I'm sure hundreds of doctors would also resign and play the same game.

    I'm thoroughly disgusted at what I've seen in this article and the implications it has on general practice. If a leading organisation within the profession has been profiting from its own members and deliberately exploiting their subscriptions for excessive profit and lying about it for many years, then we know why general practice is dying........ If out own leaders can do this to our own then why expect outsiders to behave any differently??

    RIP UK GENERAL PRACTICE. My advice to young trainees , get your qualifications and then GTFO! move abroad and move away from these odious duplicitous people!!

    Uk general practice has become a cesspit- join us on Facebook

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • please please at least when you agree: post under your name ( They..can always trace your IP address !!)
    When you have the guts to post your NAME, like I do, you can criticize. Till then: spare us the lecture.
    and again with above ,Dr Glasspool -
    AKH , thanks

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Looks like you may have quietened things down on this thread, Anne Hoffmann.

    People post anonymously for their own reasons. These can include, fear of reprisals given the issues or fear of victimisation from the likes of the Daily Mail, for example. Posting anonymously shouldn't be abused, even if people get a bit carried away.

    Have a look at the level of debate which takes place on GP Online to decide whether allowing anonymous posts takes away from the debate???

    PULSE hold the IP addresses of the posters and police the policy incase people step over the line. Unless this information is handed over, or their account is hacked this information remains anonymous. The later would involve breaking the law unless sanctioned by a judge.

    Anonymous tip offs have led to all manner of exposure of wrong doing and in this sense PULSE are right to allow this. Institutions break the law and when not accountable there is an imbalance of power which in the absence of a transparent and judicial process is a problem.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Ann H. you don't have a useful understanding of the reasons and benefits of posting anonymously plus you seem to have started posting quite recently..much of it unreadable, please try to write a proper letter. Those who have contributed anonymously for a long time have made their own considered decisions as to how much they can risk but their contributions are invaluable in adding info and opinions which would never see the light otherwise.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This comment has been moderated

  • @ 6.20pm

    Don't make it personal.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 3:41pm There are many reasons to post anonymously which are quite legitimate:

    This forum is open to the general public and people can and have been quoted out of context.
    Facebook groups, whilst not secure tend to form around more specific communities who tend to have a similar outlook and are often more supportive.
    The press lurk here - their intentions are not always honourable.
    The NHS has a long tradition of silencing dissent and destroying whistle-blowers. Many of us have mortgages to pay and families to feed.
    The forum is moderated to prevent abuse.
    Anonymous is a basic human right ie freedom of expression.
    Anonymous grants freedom to say what you actually mean without feeling embarrassed - those views may not be particularly extreme to need some cover.
    I don't want my views to be mistaken for those of my colleagues , associates and partners.
    People can loose their jobs through speaking out of turn.
    This is not a chaired debate amongst ones immediate peers like a university society - it's more like the wild west.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I do find Dr Ann H comments bizarre at times but I give the dear lady credit for posting with her name;
    Shes got the guts to put herself out there in the firing line; respect to her

    In fact I give everyone credit here who posts including clare gerada and also my beloved Ivan Bennett; I don't agree with everything they say but its refreshing to be able have a debate like civilized adults as we can in a free democratic country!

    These revelations have been damaging and ive particularly enjoyed reading Dr Una coales emails - this could just be the GP equivalent of the snowden affair; I'm excited!! I smell revolt in the air

    anonymous and named keep up the good work

    and thanks again to pulse for breaking the story; a very important issue

    the pulse forums are magnetic at times.. I love reading them; its certainly a break from the usual routine of dealing with endless heartsinks and malingerers!!!!!!!!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Vinci Ho

    Have you had a record of how many comments you had to moderate and delete in each article? I have got a feeling this one could be one of the highest number in the record??
    I think people are genuinely angry......,

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page50 results per page

Have your say