The RCGP has set the fee for its new exam at £1,180 – an increase of £104 on the cost to trainees of its current exam.
The new Simulated Consultation Assessment (SCA) will replace the Recorded Consultation Assessment (RCA), which was introduced during the pandemic to enable trainees to complete their training programmes remotely.
However, the new exam is cheaper than the clinical skills assessment that was in place before the pandemic, which required all trainees to be assessed in person at the RCGP in London at a cost of £1,352 in 2019-2020.
The new SCA will see GP trainees being assessed virtually in their own practice, with actors playing the role of patients, and will be rolled out for the first time in November.
The college said that compared to the RCA, the SCA has a lower cost for examiner marking and quality assurance, but ‘substantially higher’ combined cost for role-players, examiner training, and other costs.
In an update to trainees, RCGP’s chief examiner Professor Rich Withnall and vice chair for professional development Dr Margaret Ikpoh said: ‘We have worked hard throughout the design of the assessment to ensure that costs to trainees (including travel costs) are minimised as much as possible, while of course balancing the need to provide the highest levels of reliability and validity required for a high-stakes national GP licensing examination.
‘The SCA is a standardised examination and will rely on a large bank of cases being written and maintained to the appropriate quality.
‘This was never a cost for the RCA where consultations were recorded with real life patients.
‘This is a standard cost for all examinations, and for the SCA we have developed cases using economies of scale and adapting existing cases where possible from the CSA.’
The RCGP said that the cases will be 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.
The reliability of the examination is ‘critical to the quality of each role-player’, the college added, and ‘significant investment’ is made into their training and quality assurance as well as the fees to the agencies.
There were ‘very minimal’ role-player costs in the RCA, but these have now returned for the SCA and are higher than the CSA due to market rates.
Last month, GP trainees feared their preparation for the RCA part of their MRCGP exams would have gone to waste due to the college underestimating demand.
The college had changed booking slots at short notice for when candidates could apply and submit their assessments due to very high demand and ‘a logistics issue’.
The RCGP then said all GP trainees who need to take the recorded consultation assessment (RCA) part of their MRCGP exam will now be able to.