The GMC is to develop a single national licensing examination marking the first step to a unified ‘passport to practise’ for doctors wishing to practise in the UK.
The national licensing examination would replace the current entrance examination for international medical graduates, PLAB (Professional & Linguistics Assessment Board).
All graduates, regardless of their place of qualification, would need to undertake and pass the examination in order to register with the GMC.
It would be an important step towards placing overseas doctors, European doctors and UK-trained doctors on an equal footing.
Currently overseas doctors have to pass PLAB to work in the UK, while European counterparts just have to prove to prospective employers that they have the necessary clinical and language skills.
Niall Dickson, CEO of the GMC, said: “This is the start of a process that, if we get it right, will create a level playing field for entry into medicine in the UK.
“Medicine is an increasingly mobile profession, and we must have systems in place which not only ensure that UK-trained graduates meet the required standards, but that all doctors practising here have been examined and evaluated to the same high level.
“There is plenty of detail to be worked out, but today we begin discussions about how to develop a single ‘passport to practise’.”
The exam will be designed to give patients assurance about the competence and quality of those treating them, regardless of where they received their training.
Harrison Carter, co-chair of the BMA’s Medical Students Committee, said: “This proposal could successfully provide equal opportunities for those entering into medicine in the UK and could work to reassure patients that those treating them, regardless of where they have trained, are competent and able.
“However we must ensure that medical students are not subjected to excessive examinations which could distract them from essential medical training.
“We will work closely with the GMC to ensure that the introduction of this exam is proportionate and provides an equal opportunity for all students while not overburdening them.”
GMC Council will consider the issue again in June 2015 and decide how to take forward the implementation of the new exam.
Dickson added: “Our aspiration is that this exam should apply to any doctor joining the medical register, current European rules are likely to make it difficult to enforce this on those who come from the European Economic Area.
“We would certainly like to see a situation where doctors from Europe themselves would wish to demonstrate that they are meeting the required standards by sitting the exam. The fact that a doctor has passed the national exam would almost certainly be noted on his or her entry on the medical register for everyone to see.
“We believe it would be fairer and more reassuring to the public for there to be a single standard for entry to the register that everyone can rely on. Over time the exam should help to drive up standards.”