GMC to restart fitness to practise cases and PLAB tests within weeks

Fitness to practise cases paused during the coronavirus pandemic will restart this month, with professional and linguistic assessment board (PLAB) tests relaunching in August, the GMC has said.

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey (Photo: GMC)
GMC chief executive Charlie Massey (Photo: GMC)

Fitness to practise cases that are already underway will restart this month where possible, the regulator has said. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the GMC took steps to limit the impact of its investigations by 'only requesting information from employers and healthcare professionals where there was an immediate patient safety concern'.

Cases will begin again from the start of July, but 'with the understanding that many individuals and organisations remain under pressure and any potential impact needs to be proportionate', the GMC said. The regulator will also begin to consider new cases over the coming weeks.

PLAB tests for overseas doctors will also restart from 13 August, with the first doctors able to book tests from 3 July. The GMC said that doctors whose exams had been cancelled and who had been unable to travel to their home countries during the pandemic would be prioritised.

Other eligible doctors will be allowed to book after this initial group has been worked through, with priority given to those who 'already have a job offer in place and would be able to join the NHS workforce quickly'.

Fitness to practise

The decision to resume fitness to practise cases and PLAB testing comes after the GMC said last month that doctors will be allowed to revalidate with only four appraisals in a five-year period under a more flexible approach adopted in light of the pandemic. The regulator announced that it had paused the revalidation process completely in March.

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said: '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.’

He said the GMC had 'worked hard' to restart PLAB testing safely. '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.'

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