GP trainees face £200 fee hike as RCGP overhauls payment system

GP trainees will be charged almost £200 more to complete their training, after the RCGP shifted its payment system to increase its Associate in Training (AiT) membership fees.

Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard: changes to MRCGP exam fees are fair
Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard: changes to MRCGP exam fees are fair

RCGP AiT membership has been increased by £595, but the college cut examination costs by £409, meaning trainees will have to pay around £186 more over their three-year training period.

However, the college says trainees will be able to recover the majority of the increased cost through a tax rebate negotiated with HMRC. It also says the new system is fairer, because the costs of resitting MRCGP exams for doctors who initially fail will be reduced.

The changes will apply to the cohort of trainees starting in August this year. AiT membership currently costs around £887 for three years, while the two MRCGP exams amount to around £2,079 for members.

The RCGP said the changes to exam and membership fees were developed to ensure greater ‘fairness and transparency’ for GP trainees.

MRCGP exam costs

The shift in prices will benefit trainees who fail MRCGP exams the first time, as now they will have a reduced sum to pay each time they take the exam.

Under the new pricing structure, ‘people who fail the exams are going to be better off, people who are fortunate enough to pass everything first time will be a little worse off,’ RCGP honorary treasurer Dr Stokes-Lampard admitted.

But she said the change in funding was ‘fairer’ because it ‘better reflects the true costs’ of exams and means that ‘people who have to re-sit will no longer be subsidising those who pass first time’.

She added: ‘This is a cost-neutral exercise; we've just moved the costs around to more accurately reflect where the true costs are and to be fairer to all trainees. We were conscious that trainees who have failed exams were having to pay a disproportionate amount, so we rebalanced it.’

The change comes just over a year after international doctors group BAPIO took the RCGP to court – in which it claimed the RCGP exams discriminated against black and minority candidates, who were considerably more likely to fail and therefore have to retake the exams.

But Dr Stokes-Lampard said the desire to change prices ‘predated’ the case and had taken ‘several years’ to come to fruition.

Fairer GP exam

The changes do not mean that trainees who pass the exams first time will have to subsidise later exams for those who fail, she said. The RCGP will ‘regularly review and rebalance’ costs to ensure this does not occur and the system remains fair.

The fee increase can be offset through a tax rebate on exam costs, which the college negotiated for GP trainees with the HMRC.

This allows full-time trainees to claim back 40% of the costs of the two components of the MRCGP – which will amount to £500 to £600 for the majority of trainees  through their normal tax return, Dr Stokes-Lampard said.

She said: ‘Fairness to all our trainees is the driving force for these changes and all trainees can be confident that they are being treated fairly and transparently.

‘We need to demonstrate that fees for all the college’s work are representative of the costs actually incurred - and it can be difficult to comprehend exactly what is involved in running a professional licensing exam – but we are confident that the new structure of fees is the most accurate, fair and clear we have ever had.

‘The RCGP is only too well aware of the financial pressures on trainees and has been careful to keep uplifts to a minimum so the overall increases are a reflection of inflationary costs and nothing more.’

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