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As a member of the Court of Examiners of the Royal College of Surgeons of England I take issue with Dr Mandy Barnett's statement (July 2002 JRSM1) that there is little or no assessment of performance in communication during surgical training. Since MRCS was introduced (replacing FRCS) there has been a communication skills section which tests this exact situation—breaking bad news. If the candidates are unable to satisfy the examiners that they are competent in this field then they will fail this component of the exam and have to retake it. Whilst I accept that as a surgical consultant trained under the ‘old rules’ I may not have been given formal communication skills training, I am sure this aspect of my surgical work will be addressed in my annual appraisal.