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GMC to accept new English language qualification for non-UK doctors

The General Medical Council has announced it is to routinely accept an additional test as proof of English language skills from overseas doctors who want to work in the UK.

Its introduction is designed to increase flexibility for doctors keen to work in the UK, while maintaining a requirement for a high standard of English.

"We are giving overseas doctors an alternative way of demonstrating their English skills, but without reducing the high standards we require and that patients would expect."

Charlie Massey

GMC Chief Executive

The medical regulator will start accepting the Occupational English Test (OET), as an alternative to the International English Language Test System (IELTS) it already accepts, as proof of a doctor’s language competency.

OET is designed for healthcare professionals and includes real scenarios similar to those they would be likely to encounter in typical workplace situations.

The test is already recognised by the UK’s Nursing and Midwifery Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland, and authorities in Australia and New Zealand.

Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the GMC, said:

‘Doctors from overseas make a huge contribution to frontline healthcare in this country, and it is more important than ever to make sure that the path for highly-skilled doctors to work in the UK is as straightforward as possible.

‘But it is also vital that those doctors coming to work here have a good standard of English. We have reviewed the OET thoroughly and are confident that, as well as giving more flexibility for doctors keen to work in the UK, it will continue to ensure that only those with a high level of English will reach the required standard.

‘We are giving overseas doctors an alternative way of demonstrating their English skills, but without reducing the high standards we require and that patients would expect.’

Sujata Stead, OET CEO, said:

'We are delighted that the GMC is giving wider choice to overseas doctors seeking to register and work in the UK. Communication is vitally important in delivering safe and quality care, and OET as a healthcare-specific test, ensures that doctors who have achieved the required level can communicate effectively in their workplace.'

The test can be taken in more than 100 locations in 40 countries. Once overseas doctors, have met the language requirements, those whose primary medical qualification was gained outside the European Economic Area must also demonstrate they have the necessary practical skills and knowledge before being able to work in the UK.

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