General Medical Council sets out plans for restart of medical tests and fitness to practise work

The General Medical Council (GMC) has set out its plans for resuming Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board 2 (PLAB 2) tests for overseas doctors.

From this month, existing fitness to practise cases will also be restarted where possible with flexibility on timescales and in direct discussion with those involved.

From 3rd July, the first group of eligible doctors will be able to be book PLAB 2 test dates that will take place from 13th August. A group of around 240 overseas doctors who are currently in the UK will be given priority as they have previously had their exams cancelled and have been unable to return to their home countries as a result of the pandemic.

Bookings will then gradually open up to other groups of eligible doctors. As demand for PLAB2 will be high, the GMC plans to identify and prioritise candidates who already have a job offer in place and would be able to join the NHS workforce quickly once registered.

Charlie Massey – Chief Executive and Registrar at the General Medical Council said:

“We have worked hard to get these exams up and running again while following all UK Government guidance on social distance. The safety of candidates, our staff, examiners and role players has had to take priority.

“We know that it has been a frustrating time for those doctors waiting to take their tests and I hope it will be a relief to them that we are now in a position to gradually open the process up again in a controlled and considered way.”

"Because different parts of the system and heath service experience the impact of the of the pandemic in different ways, we'll be flexible on timescales, and we will highlight the support available to everyone involved"

Charlie Massey

GMC Chief Executive

In recent months, the GMC has focused on ensuring that employers and doctors can prioritise frontline care. Earlier in the pandemic, the GMC took steps to minimise the impact of its fitness to practise investigations by only requesting information from employers and healthcare professionals where there was an immediate patient safety concern.

From the start of July, after careful consideration and in agreement with responsible officers, existing fitness to practise cases will be progressed again where possible. This work is being undertaken with the understanding that many individuals and organisations remain under pressure and any potential impact needs to be proportionate.

Charlie Massey continued:

“Investigations are difficult for everyone involved, but we’re mindful that delaying our decisions any longer could cause additional stress, so we need to take a balanced approach. This work will progress in direct discussion with affected doctors, medical defence and support organisations, employers and complainants.

“And because different parts of the system and health service experience the impact of the pandemic in different ways, we’ll be flexible on timescales, and we will highlight the support available to everyone involved.’

During this time, the GMC will continue to review concerns that are raised to protect patient safety and will begin to open new cases in the coming weeks.