Foreign Doctors 'Should Face Tougher Tests'

Tests Taken By Foreign Doctors Who Want To Work In The UK Should Be Tougher, According To UCL

23.04.2014

Foreign doctors who want to work on the NHS should face tougher tests, according to a new study.

Research by the University College London (UCL) found a so-called "performance gap" between UK and international medical graduates, with those coming from abroad doing substantially poorer than their British counterparts, reports the BBC.

To combat this, the UCL study posited that pass marks for entry exams sat by international doctors should be set much higher than current levels in order to make sure the NHS gets the best medical staff.

However, the British International Doctors Association disputed the findings and called for a standardised test for all to ensure that UK graduates are not given undue advantage in NHS recruitment processes.

Currently, the pass mark for the General Medical Council (GMC) exam, which is sat by 1,300 foreign doctors per year, is 63 per cent, but UCL wants this raised to 76 per cent.

Chris McManus, professor of psychology and medical education at UCL, told the BBC Radio 4 Today show: "The evidence is that some of those at the bottom end of the distribution are not performing as well.

"I have to emphasise, many of those at the top end are extremely good and the NHS depends on them.

They're experts. They're specialists and so on. In the longer term, I think there probably has to be a national qualifying exam which would be sat by everybody."

UCL based its recommendations on the fact that in the five years to 2012, of the 669 doctors that were struck off or suspended by the General Medical Council, 420 had trained abroad before they arrived to work in the NHS.

But Umesh Prabhu, national vice-chairman of the British International Doctors Association said overseas doctors have "contributed tremendously" to the NHS in recent years.

There are currently 95,000 foreign trained doctors working in the UK, a quarter of the nation's total workforce.

Expert Opinion
Regardless of whether they trained in the UK or abroad, all doctors working within the NHS should strive to provide patients with the best possible care.

“The NHS would not be as successful as it is today without the specialist support and resource foreign doctors provide.

“That said, the figures from the GMC about the majority of doctors suspended or struck off having trained abroad do raise concerns. We believe these cases need to be examined further to understand any patterns or regular contributing factors.

“This will ensure lessons can be learned and the correct improvements made to protect future patient safety, rather than relying on further exam questions in the hope they prevent poor care in the future.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner