RCGP examinations - future developments, June 2021

We hope you have all been keeping well and want to thank you for your continued work to support your general practice colleagues and patients throughout the pandemic. Here’s our latest update on future developments for RCGP examinations. We are currently working on the exam schedule for 2022 and will update you soon.

Recorded Consultation Assessment

The Recorded Consultation Assessment (RCA) was introduced in July 2020. Since then, it has successfully enabled trainees to complete their training programmes and enter general practice. This has been despite the restrictions and disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful to trainees and the whole training community for the flexibility you have shown in adapting to this new form of assessment. Although it is still very new and, therefore, data is relatively limited, results to date show that it performs well as an assessment of clinical skills and that pass rates are consistent with those of the Clinical Skills Assessment (CSA). We have seen some recent reports speculating that differential attainment has widened under the RCA, and we can confirm that this is not the case.

We are aware the RCA was developed to meet a very specific need relating to the pandemic. We have listened to feedback from trainees, trainers and the four UK Statutory Education Bodies. From this, we understand that some aspects of the assessment in its current form may impact on your experience of training. We are therefore taking steps to mitigate these issues, where possible, and we hope that this will benefit both trainees and trainers for the remaining time that this interim assessment is in place. While we are keen to make improvements to the RCA, we have also heard from trainees that ongoing changes to the assessment could be unsettling, and therefore, we will do our best to minimise the impact on trainees, give you ample notice of any changes and continue to keep you informed of our progress as the work develops.

Future Development Work

We have also begun working on a new consultation assessment which will replace the RCA in the longer-term. It is our intention to take our experiences of delivering both the CSA and RCA. We will also take into account the changes to practice and training that have occurred because of the pandemic. We will develop a new assessment which will be robust, reliable and reflect the realities of modern general practice. It will be delivered in a way which is equitable for all trainees.

This work is still at a very early stage, and we are engaging with a wide range of stakeholders, including trainee representatives, to ensure all views and voices are heard. A new assessment of this kind will require detailed development work, extensive piloting and regulatory approval, and so it is likely that it will not be introduced to all trainees until 2023. However, it is our aim to work quickly and to launch the new assessment as soon as we possibly can, and we will continue to keep you updated on our progress.

Thank you again for all you are doing. If you have any further questions, please check out our FAQs or contact us at exams@rcgp.org.uk.

About the writer

Dr Michael Mulholland is a GP at Unity Health, a five-site practice for 22000 patients across the Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire border where he has practised for nearly 20 years.

He also works for Health Education England with roles in GP training, Quality Improvement and workforce planning. Within the RCGP he has been part of the GP at Scale programme and a GP Forward View Regional Ambassador.

He was elected to the post of Vice Chair (Professional Development) in November 2018.