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RCGP scrambles to meet ‘unprecedented’ CSA demand

By Christian Duffin

Exclusive: The RCGP is facing 'unprecedented' demand from GP registrars to sit the nMRCGP clinical skills assessment exam next year, but has denied the increase in bookings is due to plunging pass rates for the exam.

About 400 more trainees have booked places to take the CSA in February and March compared with last year, forcing the RCGP to offer extra dates.

The demand comes weeks after the college was forced to investigate CSA pass rates, which fell from 81% last year to just 46%.

However an RCGP spokesperson denied the increased demand for the CSA exam was due to a larger pool of candidates needing resits, and said the spike was due to trainees taking the the CSA earlier on in the year.

Figures for the proportion of CSA candidates who are resitting the exam rather than taking it for the first time are not currently available, but will be published in the New Year, she said.

The RCGP argues that the record numbers applying for February and March exams may be partly the result of deaneries pushing their candidates to take the CSA in February, when they may have previously planned to take it in May.

Dr Bill Reith, chair of the RCGP postgraduate training board. ‘There is a higher demand than last year when 1,400 candidates sat in February and March.'

‘Currently 1,800 are booked for those months. However, past experience leads us to anticipate that many will withdraw, having already booked a re-sit and then heard that they had actually passed from their previous sitting.'

The RCGP had to reduce its planned number of sittings in November from ten to six because there were not sufficient numbers of candidates.

An RCGP statement said: 'Owing to unprecedented demand it has been necessary to release additional CSA examination sessions. These will be on Saturday 5 February and Friday 4 February and made available according to demand.'

Dr Nigel Giam, a GP in London and a GP training programme director at Kings College School of Medicine, London, said he had many good GP registrars who were being forced to resit their CSA.

‘I appreciate that the college wants to produce excellent GPs, but the CSA is not the be all and end all.'

'There are excellent trainees who are failing this and it is not due to lack of competency, but rather extreme performance anxiety. The financial implications of having to resit the CSA cannot be underestimated.'

The RCGP commissioned academics to investigate whether any potential race or sex biases exist in its MRCGP exam, after statistics showed that pass rates were significantly higher among white and female candidates than among men or Asian people. But no figures will be available until next year, said an RCGP spokesperson.

RCGP scrambles to meet 'unprecedented' CSA demand CSA tips

Read Dr Nigel Giam's tips on how to pass the CSA here