Tougher test for overseas doctors coming to UK

OVERSEAS doctors who want to practise in the UK are to face more robust tests, the General Medical Council has announced.

The regulator has agreed to make a number of changes to the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test following an independent review into the process.

Under the proposals, applicants will undergo a broader assessment of their ethical values, as outlined in the GMC’s Good Medical Practice, as well as limits to the number of retakes permitted.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said the changes would help make the test for overseas trained doctors “as robust and effective as possible, ensuring that those who are admitted to the register are of the right standard.”

It follows the introduction in June of English language tests for all foreign doctors.

The review, commissioned by the GMC and chaired by Health Education England chief executive Professor Ian Cumming, has been welcomed by the regulator which has fully accepted all its recommendations.

The PLAB is a two-part test taken by the majority of medical graduates with international qualifications who wish to register with the GMC. It is similar to the UK driving test in that it comprises both a theory and a practical stage with a pass in both parts required before full GMC registration is granted.

The recommendations include limiting to four the number of retakes allowed in the written test, bringing it in line with the practical stage. A pass in either part of the PLAB will also be valid for only two years, rather than the previous three years.

Despite the tougher measures, the GMC said employers must still check doctors have the right skills for the job.

Niall Dickson said: “Under current EU legislation we cannot check the competency of doctors coming from Europe and that is a major gap in our regulatory defences.

“It is vital that employers make sure that the doctors they have taken on have the skills to do the job for which they are appointed – and even for overseas doctors who do pass our exam, that should only provide assurance that they are at a level equivalent to a UK trained doctor who has just joined the register. In other words they may be an inexperienced practitioner who needs close and ongoing support and supervision.”

The GMC said it will publish a report on the progress of the recommendations in 18 months’ time.

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