New doctors may have to pass standard test to join medical register


New doctors would have to pass a universal test in order to practise in the UK under proposals to overhaul entry on to the medical register.

The General Medical Council (GMC) drew up the plans after finding not all doctors leaving medical school felt they were prepared to practise to the same level.

The watchdog also hopes to use Brexit as an opportunity to demand the same standards from all overseas doctors, who currently either face further exams or no barriers at all depending on where they qualified.

Under the present system each of the UK's 32 medical schools sets its own curriculum and licensing criteria.

Terence Stephenson, chairman of the GMC, said: "That's 32 slightly different ways of determining if a doctor in training is up to entering the profession.

"It can't be right that medicine marks its own homework. So how do we make sure that doctors reach an agreed threshold of competence and preparedness?"

Research by the watchdog revealed some foundation doctors felt unprepared for the step up in responsibility and workload after graduating, while others were concerned about writing prescriptions and carrying our procedures like taking blood.

Under the Medical Licensing Assessment (MLA) all UK medical students will have to answer a common bank of questions for their final exams.

The GMC also hopes that the same test will be sat by doctors attempting to join the medical register wherever they obtain their degree from.

Around 35% of doctors working in the NHS qualified overseas, according to the GMC.

Under EU laws doctors who qualify from within the European Economic Area (EEA) are entitled to have their qualification recognised in the UK.

Meanwhile those from outside the EEA have to either have a recognised qualification or pass the watchdog's Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test.

In 2016 there were 1,589 international students who gained registration by passing the PLAB test, while 1,839 international students used other methods, mostly by holding a recognised postgraduate qualification.

There were 2,166 medical graduates from EEA countries who grained registration without "without any test of their competence due to European law", the GMC said.

Depending on the outcome of negotiations to leave the EU, the GMC may be able to demand that doctors who come from the EEA have to pass the new test.

"Our aspiration is that this assessment should apply to doctors who join the medical register wherever they obtain their degree," Mr Stephenson said as the watchdog launched a public consultation on the plans."

"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 MLA could become an international benchmark test for entry to medicine."