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RCGP reduces cost of skills assessment during pandemic

The RCGP has set the fee for the Recorded Consultation Assessment (RCA), the exam replacing the Clinical Skills Assesment (CSA) during the Covid-19 pandemic, at £1,050. 

This is a reduction of just over £300 compared to the CSA, which the RCGP said was to reflect the lower delivery costs of the remote test.

The CSA and AKT were cancelled in March, as their face-to-face format was made impossible by the social distancing imposed by coronavirus guidelines. The RCA is intended to continue until the middle of next year.

In a letter to colleagues, RCGP vice chair for professional development Dr Michael Mulholland said: ‘I know you will have been wondering what the fee will be for the new RCA and I can confirm that this will be £1,050.

‘While there are still significant delivery costs (particularly given the need to double mark this sitting of the exam to ensure reliability), this is cheaper than the fee for the CSA, and reflects the fact that the direct cost of running this examination will be lower, in the main part because we will not need to use an examination circuit or role players.’

He continued: ‘I understand that those of you who have already sat and passed the CSA may feel disappointed that the CSA fee was higher. However, the College made a commitment when the new MRCGP was introduced in 2007 that we would not seek to make a profit from the MRCGP examination and we feel it is important to maintain that principle.

‘Likewise, there are also significant costs related to delivering the CSA earlier in the year which we cannot write off, or pass on to the wider membership. We will keep the fee level under review to ensure it is pitched appropriately to deliver the examination through a cost-neutral approach.’

The booking window for the July sitting opens next Thursday (11 June), and trainees who paid to sit the CSA in March, April or May and carried their fee forward will be refunded as soon as possible, the RCGP said.

Dr Mulholland added that those due to complete training in August should be able to access the IT system that will support the RCA by tomorrow (5 June).

Dr Anthony James, chair of the RCGP’s AiT community, welcomed the reduced cost, telling Pulse: ‘The journey to create the new RCA has been one of greater transparency and better communication between the college, education bodies and trainees. This has continued in the timely release of the news that the running costs of the RCA will be lower than the CSA, which will come as positive news to many trainees.

‘While the college has had a longstanding commitment not to profit from the running of examinations, trainees have always questioned why the CSA was so expensive. The CSA is regarded as a world-class exam, but is costly to deliver – requiring space, actors, exam staff and of course backfill for examiners’ time and expertise.’

The previous cost of the CSA was £1,352, while the Applied Knowledge Test (AKT) continues to cost £459.