Increasing our support for international doctors joining the UK medical register

Patient safety depends on the existence of a well-resourced and well-developed medical workforce, across different sectors of the UK’s healthcare systems and within different specialties.

And, like with other healthcare professions, this depends on a regular influx of international doctors moving to live and work in the UK.

We’re experiencing increased demand for exam places from doctors who want to relocate to the UK from overseas. And given the important contribution these doctors make to our health services, we’re committed to making the process as straightforward and streamlined as possible, while retaining the high standards needed for practice across all four countries of the UK.

In 2018, we expanded the number of test sites for the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board part one (PLAB 1) written test in the UK and in assessment centres abroad. The expansion included holding the exam for the first time in Cardiff and Edinburgh, which proved very popular with sessions
reaching full capacity.

As a result of all these changes, the number of overseas doctors sitting the exam has risen by a third, from 3,200 in March 2018 to 4,400 in March 2019.

We’ve also made the process to check the IDs of international doctors easier. For example, we now check and verify international medical graduates’ IDs when they sit part two of the PLAB exam, so that the majority of them only need to attend our office once.

The new process:

  • reduces the wait time for an ID check and for an application to be granted
  • saves doctors money on travel
  • makes doctors available for work sooner.

The changes, which have been well received, mean we have been able to offer candidates far more flexibility and choice. By allowing more people to be assessed and eventually access practice in the UK, we’re helping to address workforce shortages that are likely to become more pressing following our expected departure from the European Union.

Combined with the important work we’re doing to retain and support doctors already working in the UK, assuring a continuous, healthy supply of new doctors into the medical workforce will help ease the pressures on stretched health services across all four countries.

Helping new recruits adapt to UK medical practice

As well as our Welcome to UK practice workshops, we’re helping new recruits understand how the UK’s health services operate with a virtual reality 360° video experience. Patient journey to GP Practice gives new international GPs immersive insight into GP practice in the UK from a patient’s perspective.

Early responses from doctors who have taken part have been positive: ‘Very realistic and interactive’ and ‘We need more of this’.

A series of five events using this technology are taking place for international doctors in 2019.