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GMC doubles capacity for testing overseas doctors

The GMC is opening a new centre in Manchester this summer that will double the number of overseas doctors it can test.

The clinical assessment centre, which will be able to test 11,000 doctors each year, will make the process easier for doctors wanting to move to the UK and help reduce recruitment pressures on the NHS, the GMC said.

The number of candidates applying to take the clinical assessment has increased sharply over the past five years.

Most doctors who qualified outside the European Economic Area must pass two GMC Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) exams before they can practise in the UK. They also need to demonstrate that they meet the necessary English language requirements.

In 2018, 5,227 doctors took PLAB 2 at the existing testing centre, up from 2,970 in 2017 and 2,454 in 2016.

The knowledge test (PLAB 1) can be taken at locations worldwide but the practical exams (PLAB 2) are taken at the GMC’s offices in Manchester, where increasing demand means it’s currently running at capacity.

Una Lane, director of registration and revalidation at the GMC, said: ‘For some years now we have seen the demand for test places increase significantly.

‘It is therefore a priority for us that we are able to offer test places for those doctors when they need them so they can demonstrate they have the necessary skills to provide high quality care to patients in the UK.’

Candidates will continue to sit PLAB 2 at the GMC’s current centre in Manchester, and at temporary sites in London and Cambridge, until the new centre opens later this year.

The current site in Manchester will also remain in use until future demand for test places can be assessed. 

The news comes as last month the GMC called on the Government to provide ‘clarity’ on how EEA-qualified doctors – who currently make up 9% of UK-licenced doctors – will join the medical register after Brexit so that systems can be put in place.