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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)

  • sorry i'm lost here ...

    1. Is the GMC now an examination board?
    2. Is the GMC saying they do not trust universities like Oxford or Cambridge to produce medical graduates but University of Milan is ok?
    2. what is the point of medical training if after you have your MB.BS or eqivalent it is not recognised in your own country? Effectively you have to do multiple exams / curriculum to practice? This brings the obvious question that the only exam that is going to be imprtant is the one that let's you work in the UK?
    3. Who is going to administer this, how much will it cost, will there be practical exams?
    4. If this is to ensure patient safety then what about the obvious EU loophole???
    5. If this is about fairness to foreign (non-UK docs) then just have a fairer exam process and not the flawed process we have now.

    look it is obvious this has not been thought through and someone has suggested this as it is going to make someone a lot of money i.e. books, training courses etc.

    Niall Dickson needs to explain the logic of this - if he can't he needs to go as my fees are being wasted

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  • Humility is a virtue not every Professor has because it is not taught in schools - or 'posh schools'. Maybe one could look at it this way - somebody who is totally cut off from the reality of ordinary folks lives may have some difficulty understanding what their woes and agendas are. Unless one is an arrogant high class know all- in that case one knows everything after all. This is also the problem with Etonian politicians and NHS bosses who are cut off from reality in today's time and hecy the mayhem we are in.
    I have nothing against ' higher socio-economic intellectuals' but Prof Mcmanus stance - co-written by a budding student who will certainly be a Professor by the age of 30- is disturbing to say the least.

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  • OK, I'm really confused by this.
    Are they saying all medical graduates from the UK and all from outside the EU will have to sit this exam? Is it so naive to then admit EU-qualified doctors would be exempt because of the free movement rules etc, but UK-qualified doctors have to sit the exam? Discrimination, unfairness.
    Does the GMC not provide accreditation to medical schools in some way to ensure quality of assessments?
    Am I missing something?
    Do lawyers, pharmacists, dentists etc have to keep taking exams just to remain in practice?! Are they not implying that the vast resources involved in developing appraisal/revalidation have been wasted (we all know the answer anyway)?!
    With the demands/expectations of patients, the attitude of government/media/NHSE, this is yet another salvo at GPs and doctors in general.
    Ain't no joy in all this, "ain't no sunshine when you're gone", but our lives would be so much better without all this!

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  • So in short what the **** is the point of a medical degree? The years of study are not to get MBBS after your name but to get Dr in front of it. If a medical degree is no longer going to achieve this then it becomes an extremely expensive set of post nominals. I can see no way at all how this will reduce the attractiveness of medicine as a degree, none what so ever. And I can envisage no way in which this could cause any training or retention problems. The apparatus exists already to have a standard test so why add another expensive needless waste of time? Empire building by people who were probably not good enough to cut it in clinical medicine?

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  • Totally irrelevant since

    a) the NHS is in meltdown


    b) you're all doomed...

    I'm just glad I no longer have to put up with this crap!!!

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  • I am not sure why is there such a big anxiety around the new GMC exam for all medical graduates, after all the US has had the USMLE exam ( similar to what GMC is planning I think ) for all their medical graduates - local and overseas for many years. As said it will help creating a level playing field for all and give pts assurance of a Drs competence regardless of where they received their medical training. Obviously this would not apply to other EU countries as per current rules, that's a bit disappointing.

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  • 002 salaried gp ..or shall I say government stooge

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  • If theyre worried some medical degrees aren't up to par then shouldn't they be bought up to par so that the degree form those universities is satisfactory. Also I cant see how it would be legal to make UK and not EU doctors do the exam. That would be unfair descrimination

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  • Oh great! As a student I am over joyed about the prospect of another exam after my finals and before I take my specialist exams. Is my UK degree exam not worth anything then? Why are students paying £45,000 if their degree exam and then their F1 apprenticeship isn't up to par to allow registration? This is an absolute joke! I am furious and will begin a petition from UK students to oppose it. Lastly, the fact that EU doctors wouldn't to have to sit the exam if it is introduced is not only discriminatory on UK students and doctors but just plain disrespectful. Thanks for putting a downer on my nice Saturday GMC!

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  • If this comes in you will find many people suddenly going to dodgy european medical schools for their degrees on the cheap and the re entering f1 and f2 years

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