The RCGP has apologised after GP trainees sitting a new component of the MRCGP examinations experienced a ‘temporary outage’, which affected their ability to complete the assessment.
The new Simulated Consultation Assessment (SCA) is being rolled out for the first time this month, having replaced the Recorded Consultation Assessment (RCA), and sees GP trainees being assessed virtually in their own practice, with actors playing the role of patients.
However, yesterday some trainees were unable to complete the examination after a temporary IT outage.
Some GPs expressed their concerns on X, saying that the ‘significant issues’ caused GP registrars and trainers ‘extra stress’.
RCGP chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne said the college ‘cannot apologise enough’ and that the exams team are contacting the affected trainees to put individual arrangements in place, including offering free re-sits.
She also said that ‘hundreds of candidates have successfully completed’ the assessment over the past few days, and the outage affected ‘a small number of candidates’.
Professor Hawthorne said: ‘The new Simulated Consultation Assessment is a key component of the MRCGP examination, enabling candidates to demonstrate their clinical and communication skills remotely from their surgeries across the UK.
‘The first sittings are this week and hundreds of candidates have successfully completed it over the past few days.
‘Unfortunately, we experienced a temporary outage yesterday afternoon and a small number of candidates were unable to complete the assessment.
‘This was not caused by our College systems but was due to an unprecedented outage by a global third-party component.
‘We cannot apologise enough, and our exams team are contacting those trainees to put individual arrangements in place, including offering free re-sits.
‘A huge amount of effort and preparation has gone into the development and introduction of the new SCA, which replaces the Recorded Consultation Assessment that we brought in temporarily during the pandemic.
‘We are extremely grateful to the GP trainees who put themselves forward for the first sittings of the SCA.
‘We recognise the additional stress and strain that has been placed on the trainees who were unable to complete their assessment and are doing everything we can to make amends.’
The SCA involves twelve simulated consultations, each lasting 12 minutes, with cases performed by ‘professional role-players who are trained, calibrated and standardised’ so that although the cases appear the same for every trainee, the exam ‘responds to the approach of each individual doctor,’ as in real life.
In the majority of cases, trainees will be able to see the simulated patient, while others will be audio only, and there will be a three-minute gap in between each case.
Earlier this year, the college faced criticism after GP trainees feared their preparation for the RCA part of their MRCGP exams was going to go to waste due to the college underestimating demand.