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Regulator set to double capacity to test overseas doctors for work in UK

GMC will open new centre in Manchester this summer, taking capacity up to 11,000 a year

Caroline White

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

The doctors’ professional regulator, the General Medical Council (GMC) is to open a new test centre in Manchester, which will effectively double its capacity for assessing the clinical skills of overseas doctors who want to work in the UK.

The centre, which is scheduled to open in the summer will boost test capacity up to 11,000 doctors a year- twice the number the regulator can currently assess.

This should help ease the pressures on stretched health services across the country, by cutting the wait for doctors who want to relocate to the UK, says the GMC.

Most doctors who qualify outside the European Economic Area must pass two GMC Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) exams before they can practise in the UK. They also need to prove that they meet the necessary English language requirements.

The knowledge test (PLAB 1) can be taken at locations worldwide, but the practical exams (PLAB 2) are at the GMC’s offices in Manchester, where increasing demand means it’s currently running at maximum capacity.

The number of candidates applying to take the clinical assessment has risen sharply over the past five years.

Una Lane, GMC director of registration and revalidation, said: “This is a critical time for the NHS and recruiting enough doctors, with the right skills, is vital for the health service.

“‘Our new assessment centre, with its increased capacity, will support the aims of the government’s NHS long-term plan, ensuring that doctors who want to come to the UK to work can do so in greater numbers, while demonstrating that they meet the high standards that we require.”

She added: “For some years now we have seen the demand for test places increase significantly and we know the good reputation the NHS has, and the opportunities available here for doctors in training, are real pull factors for doctors who have qualified outside Europe.

"It is therefore a priority for us that we are able to offer test places for those doctors when they need them.”

The new test centre, located close to the GMC’s existing site in Manchester, will assess doctors for the PLAB 2 assessment. It will comprise two test circuits, each catering for 18 candidates at a time, with consultation rooms in which doctors will be faced with a range of practical scenarios to test their abilities. The scenarios reflect real life consultations, with actors taking the role of patients.

Candidates will continue to sit PLAB 2 at the GMC’s current centre in Manchester, and at temporary sites in London and Cambridge until the new centre is up and running. The current site in Manchester will remain in use until such time as future demand for test places can be assessed.

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