The regulator has confirmed it is establishing a new clinical assessment centre in Manchester, which means that up to 11,000 doctors will be able to sit the practical element of their Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB 2) exam each year - twice the number the GMC can accommodate at present.
It is hoped that the increased testing capacity will address what the GMC has described as a 'sharp rise' in the number of applications it has received from overseas doctors and help ease the NHS workforce crisis.
The move comes after the NHS long-term plan, published last week, pledged to ‘continue to ensure that high-skilled people from other countries from whom it is ethical to recruit are able to join the NHS’.
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.’
Although the knowledge element (PLAB 1) of the linguistic test can be taken at locations across the globe, the practical element (PLAB 2 ) must be sat at the GMC’s offices.
Ms Lane added: ‘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 new centre is due to open this summer, although a specific date has not been given.
International GP recruitment
Attempts to recruit GPs from outside the UK has been slow since the GP Forward View first set out plans for an international recruitment scheme in 2016, promising an extra 500 GPs by 2020. NHS England later increased this target to 2,000 GPs.
In June 2018 GPonline revealed that the scheme had signed up just 58 doctors in two years. Speaking at the time, GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘While any new GP joining the workforce is to be welcomed, we clearly need far more than so far recruited to be able to make a difference for practices who are struggling to manage their workload because of the current workforce crisis.’
In its most recent progress report on the GP Forward View, the RCGP said that if it was failing to recruit enough doctors, NHS England should scrap the prgroamme and release its funding for use elsewhere.