GMC announces PLAB review

THE GMC has announced a review of the PLAB test for doctors from outside Europe who wish to register to practise in the UK.

The Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test is the main route through which doctors who qualified outside the UK or EEA demonstrate their clinical skills before they join the UK medical register. The two-part test is set at the level of skill and knowledge expected of a UK graduate after their first year of training – the end of Foundation Year 1.

An independent expert group chaired by Ian Cumming, National Director for Quality at the Department of Health, will oversee the review process over the next year and is seeking the views of all interested parties.

The GMC will also be commissioning research to support the review alongside a literature review on best practice in comparable examinations.

Niall Dickson, the Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, said: "The NHS has long relied on the skills and professionalism of doctors who trained outside the UK, and of course it is vital that every doctor coming to work here has the skills to treat patients safely and effectively.

"The current review reflects that fact that medical education and practice are constantly changing as are the techniques used for testing knowledge, skills and competencies. We want to make sure our PLAB test reflects best practice. We are therefore keen to hear from anyone with ideas or information that may be helpful to the expert panel conducting the review."

The PLAB test was introduced in 1979 to ensure that all non-EU qualified doctors applying to join the UK medical register demonstrate sufficient clinical skills and competence. There are two parts to the current test. First candidates must take an exam paper either in London or at British Council-run exam centre overseas.

Doctors passing this PLAB 1 exam then undertake PLAB 2 featuring an objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) in which with doctors are judged on clinical skills in situations where actors play the roles of patients. PLAB 2 exams are held throughout the year at the GMC’s assessment centre in Manchester.

Last year, 4,068 doctors sat PLAB 1 with a 35 per cent pass rate, and 2,637 sat PLAB 2 with 70 per cent passing and becoming eligible to apply for UK medical registration.

Further information on the PLAB review and the call for written evidence is on the GMC website. The group’s final report is expected to be completed in early 2013.