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Independents' Day

GMC to introduce new exam for all medical graduates to practise in the UK

All medical graduates will need to take a new exam devised by the GMC to get on to the medical register, the regulator has announced today.

The ‘passport to practice’ will be taken by all trainees across the UK, including GPs, who wish to practise in the UK, including both UK graduates and overseas doctors.

The GMC will begin to consider the content of the exam in June 2015 in conjunction with the Medical Schools Council, Health Education England and Education Scotland as well as doctors, patients, employers and educators among others, though there is no indication as yet to when the exam will begin.

The GPC has said the plans are ‘ridiculous’ and ‘will not add anything’.

It will replace the current Professional & Linguistics Assessment Board (PLAB) exam for international medical graduates, but college exams will remain.

The GMC says that the exam will be designed to ‘give patients assurance about the competence and quality of those treating them, regardless of where they received their training’. 

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: ‘This is the start of a process that, if we get it right, will create a level playing field for entry into medicine in the UK.

‘There is plenty of detail to be worked out, but today we begin discussions about how to develop a single “passport to practise”.’

He added that it is unlikely that the GMC will be able to enforce this on doctors who come from the European Economic Area because of rules regarding free movement of trade.

However, he added: ‘We would certainly like to see a situation where doctors from Europe themselves would wish to demonstrate that they are meeting the required standards by sitting the exam. The fact that a doctor has passed the national exam would almost certainly be noted on his or her entry on the medical register for everyone to see.’

But Dr Beth McCarron-Nash, a GPC negotiator and a GP in Cornwall, said the plans were ‘ridiculous’ and indicated that the GMC was trying to make itself ‘as unpopular as possible’.

She added: ‘You are either qualified to be a doctor or you are not. To bring in yet another load of exams after graduates have passed their finals just makes it ever more difficult to become a doctor.

‘The GMC needs to look at its remit to support professionalism and doctors and I am not sure what this will add. I see some of the concerns with standardisation for international medical graduates, but until we get detail, I am not sure what this will add. I am yet to be convinced.’

Harrison Carter, co-chair of the BMA’s Medical Students Committee, said: ‘This proposal could successfully provide equal opportunities for those entering into medicine in the UK and could work to reassure patients that those treating them, regardless of where they have trained, are competent and able. 

‘However we must ensure that medical students are not subjected to excessive examinations which could distract them from essential medical training.’ 

However, international doctors leaders welcomed the news.

Dr Ramesh Mehta, president of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, said: This is brilliant news. BAPIO has been asking for a single national licensing examination for UK as well as international medical graduates for a long time. This will reconfirm the competence of IMGs and challenge those who are in habit of denigrating IMGs. I hope there is no prolonged gestation period.’

It comes after the GMC earlier this year indicated that international medical graduates could face a higher bar to work in the UK after GMC-commissioned research concluded the assessment that allows them to practise medicine in this country may be too lenient.

The research – published in the BMJ – found that graduates of PLAB had poorer clinical knowledge and skills than UK graduates on average, according to their performance in the MRCGP exam.

Readers' comments (61)

  • so EU doctors would not be assessed, only for UK trained doctors, doomed as we, another crap for GMC, shame on GMC

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  • Bring it on. USMLE has been run on those principles for sometime now and the comparison between local (USA) graduates and IMG's is published.
    The old PLAB test was given to local medical graduates and only 2 out of 50 passed the same. ( see BMJ)
    Given that scenario GMC is walking into another MTAS.
    GMC is believing its own study by a biased statistician that showed local graduates outperfomed IMGs in membership exams but the study was seriously flawed.
    IMG's were waiting for this day. If the entry exam is same and later the outcomes and job prospects were significantly different it would be a very sticky situation for the Royal Colleges and NHS!

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  • Either everyone sits it or no-one sits it!

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  • Una Coales. Retired NHS GP.

    It won't stop there. Next will be exams for revalidation as told me by the GMC...all one has to do is look at the States to see the impending future of medicine in the UK.

    The GMC conducted PLAB exam is extremely difficult IMO and set at membership level across all the specialties. In the States, one had 3 chances to pass the national board of medical examiners exam in my day and to pass one had to score above the national mean (ie of every doctor in every state in the US). This means after 5-6 years of student loans, our UK med school grads may also face a career ending exam and be saddled with a £100k debt! Medicine in the States really was for the cream of the crop, as who would take out loans for 8 years of uni+med school and sit annual exams, then a 3 part national US medical exam, then an exit board exam after one's residency and then board exams every 10 years forever? You had to be jolly smart to embark on a life of potentially career-ending exams!

    And as usual EU doctors are exempt?! Time to leave the EU?

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  • Una Coales. Retired NHS GP.

    The obvious loophole is to study medicine and train in the EU and come back to the UK as a consultant or GP, thereby bypassing all GMC and College administered medical exams.

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  • 96 people have committed suicide whilst under investigation by the GMC but still this is not enough for them and they want to increase the pressure on doctors yet further. How is anyone suppost to care about anyone in this toxic environment?

    The GMC are doing everything they can to undermine public confidence and trust in the medical profession and university qualifications. It is time they were held to account.

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  • Just remind me why we bother to fund the GMC - simple solution to a pointless organisation.

    We all stop paying fees at the same time - the crap will cease to flow as there won't be any funding for anyone to continue to work there.

    Job done - stops all the witch hunts, revalidation and new fence jumping in 1 go.

    Medical school exams passed, professional exams passed. You are a Dr with a right to practice.

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  • Is it OK to compromise on PATIENT SAFETY if you are qualified in EU? Is it OK the GMC to turn blind eye on it? Is that what the regulator should be doing? ARE WE REALLY SERIOUS ABOUT PATIENT SAFETY OR IS IT AWFUL LOT OF RUBBISH?

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  • How about a national standardised medicai school exit exam?

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  • Academicempire building is utterly destroying UK medicine.

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