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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


  Income Costs Net 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


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