GMC pushes forward with single medical licence exam

PLANS for a single exam to assess all doctors seeking to practise in the UK have been given the green light by the General Medical Council.

All UK and international medical graduates (IMGs) would have to sit the test before being granted a licence to practise medicine. It is hoped EU graduates would also take the exam, but it is not yet clear how this would be enforced due to European rules on freedom of movement.

The GMC has approved a plan to work with partners to develop the new test, provisionally titled the UK Medical Licensing Assessment (UKMLA). It would replace the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board test (PLAB) which is currently only taken by IMGs.

GMC Chair Professor Terence Stephenson said: "These are early days but the council has decided that we should develop a licensing assessment which creates a straightforward and transparent route to medical practice in the UK.

"Medicine is an increasingly mobile profession and we must have systems in place which not only make sure that UK-trained graduates meet the required standards but that all doctors practising here have been examined and evaluated to the same high level.

"We believe it would be fairer and more reassuring for the public for there to be a standard for entry to the register that everyone can rely on. Over time we are confident that the UKMLA will help to drive up standards and that it could become an international benchmark test for entry to medicine.

"Our aspiration is that this assessment should apply to any doctor joining the medical register.”

Chair of the BMA’s council Mark Porter said he looked forward to seeing how the GMC’s proposals would work in practice, adding: "Patient safety should be a priority, [but] it is also important that the process of examination is not overly burdensome for those who have just graduated from UK medical school training."

Plans for the single test were first touted last September but met with some criticism, with the BMA’s GP Committee describing it as "ridiculous", adding that the exam "will not add anything".

The UKMLA would require a change in the law to include UK graduates and the GMC said it does not anticipate the new exam will have any impact on the annual retention fee. A full public consultation is due to be carried out with a provisional implementation date of 2019 for IMGs and 2021 for UK graduates.

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