New GMC test centre will increase capacity for overseas doctors

The General Medical Council (GMC) is to open a new test centre in Manchester, doubling its capacity for assessing the skills of overseas doctors who want to work in the UK.

A new clinical assessment centre will allow the medical regulator to test up to 11,000 doctors each year, twice the number it can accommodate at the moment.

The centre is due to open in the summer and the increased capacity will help doctors who want to relocate to the UK, easing the pressures on stretched health services across the country.

Most doctors who qualified outside the European Economic Area* must pass two GMC Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) exams before they can practise in the UK. They also need to demonstrate that they meet the necessary English language requirements.

"‘For some years now we have seen the demand for test places increase significantly and we know the good reputation the NHS has, and the opportunities available here for doctors in training, are real pull factors for doctors who have qualified outside Europe."

Una Lane

Director of Registration and Revalidation at the GMC

The knowledge test (PLAB 1) can be taken at locations worldwide but the practical exams (PLAB 2) are at the GMC’s offices in Manchester, where increasing demand means it’s currently running at capacity. The GMC has seen the number of candidates applying to take the clinical assessment increase sharply over the past five years.

Una Lane, Director of Registration and Revalidation at the GMC, said: ‘This is a critical time for the NHS and recruiting enough doctors, with the right skills, is vital for the health service.

‘Our new assessment centre, with its increased capacity, will support the aims of the Government’s NHS long-term plan, ensuring that doctors who want to come to the UK to work can do so in greater numbers, while demonstrating that they meet the high standards that we require.

‘For some years now we have seen the demand for test places increase significantly and we know the good reputation the NHS has, and the opportunities available here for doctors in training, are real pull factors for doctors who have qualified outside Europe.

‘It is therefore a priority for us that we are able to offer test places for those doctors when they need them so they can demonstrate they have the necessary skills to provide high quality care to patients in the UK.’

The test centre, close to the GMC’s existing site in Manchester, will assess doctors for the PLAB 2 assessment. It will comprise of two test circuits, each catering for 18 candidates at a time, with consultation rooms in which doctors are faced with a range of practical scenarios to test their ability to care for patients. The scenarios reflect real life consultations, with actors playing the role of patients.

Candidates will continue to sit PLAB 2 at the GMC’s current centre in Manchester, and at temporary sites in London and Cambridge, until the new centre opens later this year. The current site in Manchester will also remain in use until future demand for test places can be assessed.