Skip to main content

MRCPsych courses: the national picture

  • Giles S. Berrisford (a1) and Christopher A. Vassilas (a2)
Aims and method

MRCPsych courses are a mandatory part of training for psychiatric trainees, yet relatively little is known about them. A questionnaire was devised and sent to all course organisers in the UK.


Thirty courses were identified. There was large variation in nearly all areas of content and delivery of courses, including cost, number of hours of teaching, size of course and organisation. Implementation of the College requirements in terms of service user and carer involvement was patchy.

Clinical implications

These courses are costly in terms of both time and money, and individuals involved in psychiatric training must be able to demonstrate that they are of a high quality and have been properly evaluated. Suggestions to improve the running of these courses include: the exchange of information among the different courses; a database of courses; and some uniformity in the appointment of those in charge of the course.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      MRCPsych courses: the national picture
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      MRCPsych courses: the national picture
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      MRCPsych courses: the national picture
      Available formats
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
Christopher A. Vassilas (
Hide All
1 Royal College of Psychiatrists. Basic Specialist Training Handbook: 13–14. Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2003 (
2 Department of Health. A High Quality Workforce: NHS Next Stage Review. Department of Health, 2008.
3 Shoebridge, PJ, McCartney, M. Masters courses in psychiatry. Psychiatr Bull 1995; 19: 555–8.
4 Sullivan, G, Jones, IR. Membership course or Masters course? Psychiatr Bull 1997; 21: 449–50.
5 Royal College of Psychiatrists. Fair Deal for Mental Health. Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2008.
6 Bhugra, D. A new era in psychiatric training and assessment. Adv Psychiatr Treat 2007; 13: 237–8.
7 Hare, EEH. E-learning for psychiatrists. Psychiatr Bull 2009; 33: 81–3.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 1758-3209
  • EISSN: 1758-3217
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 4 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 29 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 2nd January 2018 - 21st July 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

MRCPsych courses: the national picture

  • Giles S. Berrisford (a1) and Christopher A. Vassilas (a2)
Submit a response


MRCPsych courses, a way forward?

Jayne S Greening, Consultant Psychiatrist, Training Programme Director
18 August 2010

Berrisford and Vassilas 1 have made a valuable contribution to the scant literature on the delivery of MRCPsych courses in the UK and highlight the huge variation in cost. Their suggestions for improvement include an exchange of information between courses, a database and some uniformity of appointment for those running the courses. What was also apparent was that cost did not have a direct relationship with hours of training offered.As the current people appointed to oversee the running of the West Midlands course which is one of the largest in the country we would like echo the suggestion that more information is shared and a way of facilitating this is developed at the forthcoming Royal College Medical Education conference.We would also like to share some further observations in overseeing the course for the last 2 years;Firstly there is a persistent tension between the trainees need to pass the exam and the school of psychiatry’s broader obligation to turn out competent independent psychiatrists. This tension is increasing with the poor performance at the CASC and expectation among some that this can be resolved purely through the MRCPsych course. However, in light of the increasing focus on pass rates, it is arguable that both the course and individual trainers should embrace the aim of assisting trainees to pass the exam, recognising that the new exam is a robust assessment of clinicalknowledge and skills and, to an extent, professionalism. The encouragement of broader professional development and curriculum coverage may be viewed as a complimentary aim that is assessed more directly by educational supervisors and the ARCP process. The challenges for trainees and the CASC come from many sources, one of which is poor feedback from trainers to trainees and trainers not necessarily knowing the standards expected at the CASC exam. From our experience many trainers find it difficult to mark workplace-based assessments and use them in the way in which they were intended, that is as a developmental tool with the element of feedback being crucial.Secondly there are tensions with the deaneries to make sure that trainees attend what is predominantly currently a didactic lecture based programme when educational theory suggests this is not the best way for people to learn. Similarly there are difficulties with delivering other forms of teaching due to resources of time and recruiting capable and interested teachers, despite teaching experience being a training requirement for higher trainees and consultants.

In the West Midlands we have been able to incorporate some small group teaching at a local level for all the CT1 trainees .This however hasmeant recruiting and training 10 facilitators who are willing to contribute over 30 hours of facilitation each in 9 months. In addition thefaculty has had to develop the source materials for the groups to use. Feedback from these groups has been extremely positive.Interestingly the user and carer involvement on our course has been invaluable. The small group sessions offered by users and carers have persistently been rated one of the highest on the course by the trainees over the last 3 years. Also their feedback on communication skills in recorded role plays is always well received by trainees. By involving carers and service users in the planning of the course we have also had the benefit of their views on issues such as attendance and participation in sessions (reminding us that trainees are not undergraduate students, but professionals being paid to train during working hours).

One further thing we are trying for the first time this year is multi-professional teaching with trainees joining 3 other disciplines for some group work. We will be evaluating this separately.With the move towards possible commissioning of the courses we think the main outcome measure trainees will focus on will be on passing the exams. However, the focus of course organisers should also be on the need to produce well rounded, effective psychiatrists, not just those that can getthrough exams. We think collaboration would be very helpful in taking the courses forward, agreeing standards, sharing ideas on what works and what is cost effective.

Declaration of Interest None

References1 Berrisford G, Vassilas C, MRCPsych courses: the national picture. The Psychiatrist 2010 34 7 301 – 303.

Address for correspondence

Post Graduate Medical EducationUffculme CentreQueensbridge RoadBirminghamB13 8QYTel; 0121 678 2890Fax 0121 678 2730
... More

Conflict of interest: None Declared

Write a reply


Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *