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RCGP claims it made a £1.3m loss from the MRCGP exam last year

Exclusive The RCGP has responded to concerns over their management of the MRCGP, by releasing figures that show it has made a loss over the past five years from the exam, although this is largely due to a drop in candidates in 2014/15.

The new figures show that during 2010 to 2014 the college made a very small surplus of £527,000 from the MRCGP exam, but this was wiped out by a £1.3m loss in 2014/15.

The college released the figures in response to a Pulse story regarding official college accounts last month, which showed that net income from exams had exceeded costs in each of the past four years and amounted to £10m over five years.

The story prompted the BMA to ask for talks with the college regarding the transparency of their exam fees.

The college said at the time that the MRCGP was ‘cost neutral’ and the additional income from the exam reported in the official accounts was used for other overheads related to the exam. But it has now let Pulse see new – as yet unpublished – figures that show the college actually made a loss over the five years, leaving an overall deficit of £761,000.

The 2014/15’s accounts have yet to be approved by the college’s Trustee Board or auditors, so cannot be shared in full, but an RCGP spokesperson said they showed a £1.3m shortfall for the running of the MRCGP in 2014/15.

The college said the ‘principal reason’ for this was a drop in the total number of GP trainees that year and that the number of resits of the AKT and CSA exams had also contributed.

The original analysis was based on the five most recent available accounts, from 2009/10 to 2013/14, but the college’s response today claims additional costs and significant deficits last year wipe out any surplus.

RCGP honorary treasurer Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, said: ‘Our guiding principle is that while we want to run an exam process that is cost neutral, we also want to ensure that there is enough money available to allow the college to run the exam efficiently, give our trainees sufficient support, and manage unforeseen costs or eventualities.’

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She added that additional costs – such as costs of running the exam centres or support work and developing ‘hard copy and online materials’ to help trainees with the exams were responsible for a £9.5m cost that was not included in the official exam accounts.

Dr Stokes-Lampard said: ‘In 2014/15, the exam process made a loss of £1.3m. This year, we are projecting that the exam process will make a further loss.’

And added: ‘If all of the costs associated with the exam were to be taken into account then during 2010 to 2014 the college made a very small surplus of £527,000 – which was then ploughed back into the exam process. If we include 2014/15, the college actually sustained a deficit of £761,000.’

An RCGP spokesperson told Pulse the reason for the sharp drop in income in 2014/15 was due to a drop in candidates: ‘The principal reason for the deficit in the year 2014/15 is that we saw a drop in the number of candidates sitting both the CSA and AKT exams. We have also seen a reduction in the number of resits.’

The row over the MRCGP accounts comes amid rising concern from the BMA around the exam. A college plan to reduce the cost of resits for candidates by charging all GP trainees more for RCGP membership was recently called ‘unjustifiable’ by the GPC.

Last year saw the BMA back a judicial review looking into whether the MRCGP was discriminatory, which the RCGP won.