Overseas doctors sit UK exam in Belfast for first time

An exam overseas doctors must pass before they can practise medicine in the UK has taken place in Northern Ireland for the first time.

Doctors from countries outside of Europe, including Nigeria, Sudan and Pakistan, sat the first part of the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board exam (PLAB1) at the General Medical Council’s Belfast office today, Thursday 12 March.

The doctors who pass must then take a rigorous practical exam – known as PLAB2 – at the GMC’s Clinical Assessment Centre in Manchester before they can be granted registration and a licence to practise in the UK.


"The contribution which doctors from overseas make to our healthcare is hugely valuable. Being able to sit this exam in Belfast shows our commitment to reducing barriers for doctors who want to practise medicine here. "

Jane Kennedy

Head of the GMC in Northern Ireland

Ten candidates were the first to sit PLAB1 in Northern Ireland. Previously they would have had to travel to England, Scotland or Wales, to take the exam in the UK, or attend one of 23 locations worldwide.

PLAB 1 is a three-hour multiple-choice test, designed to assess doctors’ knowledge of conditions commonly seen in emergency departments and the management of long-term conditions seen in primary care. The tests are held four times a year.

Jane Kennedy, Head of the GMC in Northern Ireland, said: ‘The health service in Northern Ireland is stretched, as it is elsewhere in the UK. The contribution which doctors from overseas make to our healthcare is hugely valuable. Being able to sit this exam in Belfast shows our commitment to reducing barriers for doctors who want to practise medicine here.

‘Patients demand and deserve the best level of care, and our assessments are designed to ensure that only those doctors who meet our high standards are able to practise. We hope that holding this exam in Belfast will encourage more overseas doctors to work in Northern Ireland.’

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