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GP trainees’ fears around exit exam as RCGP struggles to accommodate candidates

GP trainees’ fears around exit exam as RCGP struggles to accommodate candidates

GP trainees are fearing their preparation for the ‘recorded consultation assessment’ part of their MRCGP exams will have gone to waste due to the college underestimating demand.

The RCGP changed booking slots at short notice for when candidates can apply and submit their assessments due to very high demand and ‘a logistics issue’.

It is now making ‘the most strenuous efforts’ to accommodate everyone who needs to register for the RCA in March and April but some trainees are reporting they have been told that the college has said they will not be able to accept their assessment.

This is the last window for trainees to take the RCA, as this will be replaced in September by the simulated consultation assessment, which will see trainees take the examination virtually in their own practice with actors playing the role of patients in standardised cases. This still needs to be approved by the GMC.

As a result, those who are not given slots to submit their RCA videos in March and April will be unable to take the RCA assessment at all.

In July 2020, the RCGP rolled out the RCA as the third component of the MRCGP in place of the clinical skills assessment (CSA) to enable trainees to complete their training programmes and enter general practice, given the restrictions and disruption caused by the pandemic.

While the CSA had required all trainees to be assessed in person at the RCGP in London, the RCA sees candidates having to submit recordings of 13 consultations, which cover a number of mandatory criteria, with marks given in three domains – data gathering, clinical management and interpersonal skills.

An RCGP spokesperson said: ‘We have only just become aware of the size of the problem, which is a logistics issue that must be resolved.

‘We are making the most strenuous efforts to accommodate everyone who needs to register for the RCA and will keep you appraised of what is happening.

‘Please do not worry, we are listening to you all, and aware of many individual cases that need addressing. We will address them.’

GPs argued that changing booking times and eligibility criteria at short notice was unfair on trainees who had already had stressful training periods due to the pandemic.  

Trainees on social media detailed the problems:

Dr Lucy-Jane Davis, a GP registrar and chair of BMA SW Regional Council, said: ‘What’s upsetting is asking for understanding when the impact for individual registrars is massive. So many, very understandably upset doctors out there and such an absence of support for them from their own college.’

Dr Ayesha Shafaq, an ST3, said: ‘This is utterly shocking. I along with countless other ST3 trainees have been working so hard in recording and attending courses for RCA, only to be told last minute, without any warning, this we will not be eligible for April RCA?’

Due to ‘very high candidate demand’ for the April RCA sitting, RCGP and COGPED have now agreed to increase capacity so those AITs with a CCT date before the end of September 2023 can register for the April examination.

The college has announced a list of changes for the March assessment (see box, below) and said it will be issuing an update imminently.

The college said: ‘The Exam Team is working really hard, and at the highest levels in the College, with our partners in the Deaneries, to find out exactly how many candidates are going to need to take the RCA before the SCA comes into being (it is currently awaiting accreditation by the GMC which is why we haven’t been able to tell you very much about it yet).’

It added: ‘We do understand though that trainees who sit the RCA in April will be concerned around resit opportunities and so we feel it is important to communicate that for any trainees who are unsuccessful in the RCA before the end of the 2022/23 academic year, there will be an opportunity for a final RCA sitting in autumn 2023.’

Changes introduced by RCGP to accommodate trainees

  • There will now be two booking windows for April RCA.
  • The first window will open on 22 March and close on 29 March. It will have a total capacity of 1,250 places. This window is exclusively for those trainees finishing training with a CCT date up to and including the 15 August 2023.
  • The second window will open on 5 April and close on 12 April. It will have a total capacity of 200 places. This window is exclusively for those trainees who CCT between the 16 August and 30 September 2023.
  • Therefore, any trainee with a CCT date after the 30 September 2023 will not be able to submit for the RCA in April.
  • COGPED will provide RCGP with trainee information by 20 March 2023, so please ensure your CCT date as recorded in your portfolio is correct before this date, even if you are not planning on sitting the RCA yet.
  • The previous April booking window advertised on the website will be replaced by the two windows shown above.
  • Results for the first window will be published as already advertised on 8th June 2023.
  • Results for the second window will be published as soon as possible but after 8th June 2023.
  • Dates for booking and sitting a diet of the RCA in September will be released later. This will be available only to those who have previously been unsuccessful in a sitting of the RCA.
  • Dates for the SCA will be released in due course, as will more details about the format of the assessment. As previously advised, there will be at least 6 months’ notice before the first sitting.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

David Church 13 March, 2023 6:51 pm

yet another means has been found to reduce the number of GPs qualifying in the UK, and increase the number of trained GPs leaving britain.
Well done CSA!
Seeing the continued risk to Trainees from Covid transmission in in-person exams, you would think the authorities would want to continue ‘remote exams’ to minimise sick leave and maximise ability to be at work to manage patients, but no,….. mor important to maintain the transmission levels and profits for the vaccine and drug companies!

Anonymous 14 March, 2023 11:04 am

They have only just become aware of the problem? How incompetent can these guys be? With the exam changing the format yet another time, they should have foreseen high demand for the last submission cycle.
Oh wait, they send out reminders to pay your fees months in advance!!!!!!! This ancient institution really needs a reform. Perhaps start off by offloading their payroll, reducing fees by half and becoming non profit with all surplus returned back to members.

Centreground Centreground 14 March, 2023 1:10 pm

The RCGP has always been hampered by a long history of disastrous and poor leadership led in my opinion by workshy individuals motivated by self interest and receiving undeserved awards, yet has made little to no real impact on the real world GPs . It is a hopeless and inept organisation and an abject waste of money for the many decades I have been forced to remain a member.