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GMC’s new skills test to help with international recruitment

A new assessment for UK and overseas medical graduates will help boost international recruitment, the GMC has said. 

From 2023, overseas medical students wanting to practise in the UK will have to sit the Medical Licensing Assessment (MLA) instead of the current Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB). 

Recruitment agencies said the new test will offer more transparency to the system and help boost overseas recruitment. 

The GMC announced that international medical graduates applying for a licence to practise in the UK – and who would have previously taken the PLAB – will be required to pass the MLA.

Likewise, UK medical students graduating in the academic year 2023/24 and beyond will have to sit the same assessment before they can join the medical register.  

At the moment, the GMC does not have legal powers to assess doctors from the European Economic Area and Switzerland.

Building on the PLAB, the test will consist of an applied knowledge test and a clinical and professional skills assessment (CPSA).

These include: 

  • An on-screen exam, with multiple-choice questions. It will test the candidate’s ability to apply medical knowledge to different scenarios;
  • A practical assessment of the candidate’s clinical skills and professionalism. While medical schools will design and deliver their own CPSAs, the GMC will set out requirements all CPSAs must meet. 

The GMC said the MLA will provide a level playing field for national and international doctors and ensure a continued supply of overseas doctors to the UK. 

A GMC spokesperson said: ‘We’ve designed the introduction of the MLA to avoid disruption to the flow of doctors into the UK. 

‘The new assessment aims to address the current variation across UK medical schools in the assessment of students, as well as arrangements for those wishing to join the register from outside the UK. The MLA will provide assurance that new joiners to the medical register meet a common threshold for safe practice before we grant them registration with a licence to practise.

‘Ultimately, it is hoped that the MLA will become a marker of the excellence of UK medical education and UK medicine around the world.’

They added: ‘As the number of UK medical graduates continues to grow and we continue to welcome doctors from overseas, the medical licensing assessment will make the current system simpler, fairer and even stronger.’

Paul Brooks, managing director of UK-based international medical recruitment agency EU Health Staff Ltd, said: ‘I would welcome this proposed scheme on condition that UK doctors and overseas doctors sit the same MLA exam and that the system is transparent and centred on a candidate’s ability to practise. If introduced as described this should aid overseas recruitment.’

The GMC announced in 2016 that international medical graduates wanting to work in the UK would face a ‘strengthened’ test, the PLAB, to ensure they are of the ‘highest standard’.

At the time, GP leaders accused the council of putting up barriers to recruitment given an already reduced GP workforce

It follows a GMC report which showed that the number of EEA GPs in the UK has dropped by 10% over the past seven years. 

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