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Overseas-trained doctors will face tougher GMC assessment

The test for doctors from outside the EU will involve a broader knowledge test and a more thorough practical assessment

Ingrid Torjesen

Thursday, 17 March 2016

The General Medical Council (GMC) is toughening the assessment of international doctors wanting to work in the UK.

International medical graduates must first demonstrate that they have appropriate English language skills. They then have to take the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test, which assesses whether they have the medical knowledge and skills to practise in the UK. The PLAB test consists of a written knowledge test at various locations around the world and a practical assessment of clinical skills at the GMC’s Clinical Assessment Centre in Manchester.

From September, overseas-trained doctors will be required to undergo a broader knowledge test and a more thorough practical assessment to more accurately reflect real life NHS consultations.

Professor Vikram Jha, Head of Undergraduate School of Medicine at the University of Liverpool, who chairs the PLAB Part 2 panel that creates the exam scenarios and passing criteria, said: “The practical test has been fully revised to make sure it genuinely reflects best practice in medical assessment. The longer, more integrated scenarios are more authentic and require candidates to demonstrate how they apply their knowledge and skills to provide safe patient care. That, along with a new way of setting the pass mark for the practical exam, will enhance the reliability of the test, making sure that only those doctors with a good level of knowledge and skills are allowed to practise in the UK.”

Doctors will face a limit on the number of times they can sit the new test, which has been given a working title of medical licensing assessment (MLA). Those that pass will have to apply for a licence to practise in the UK within two years.

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, said: “Doctors working in the UK must have the knowledge and practical skills to practise safely and effectively and they must demonstrate the professionalism patients expect. To make sure they are of the highest standard we are introducing changes to modernise the entry test for overseas doctors, making it even more robust.

“The contribution made by doctors who come here from outside Europe is invaluable to healthcare throughout the UK and these changes will provide additional assurance to patients that they have passed a stringent assessment and have demonstrated high standards of care and knowledge.

“Of course the GMC’s assessments are just part of the process and employers also have a vital role to play in carrying out pre-employment checks on all doctors they take on. This includes taking responsibility for making sure all doctors, including those from within Europe, have the relevant qualifications, skills and experience required for the role.”

Last year, 69% of candidates who took the PLAB knowledge test, known as Part 1, passed and 68% passed Part 2 of the test, the practical assessment.

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