Becoming a doctor in the UK: via PLAB

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

International Medical Graduates (IMGs) from all over the world relocate to the UK to be able to continue their career as a doctor within the NHS. The process can be quite lengthy and unique to the individual depending on the steps which you have taken in your career so far. The first milestone in the process is getting a licence to practise to be able to carry out certain activities such as prescribing medicines and treating patients. The organisation that reviews and issues all types of registrations is the General Medical Council (GMC) and this applies to all doctors whether they are working for the NHS, privately as a substantive or locum doctor.

The requirements for registration in the UK will depend on several factors:

  • your nationality
  • the country in which you gained your primary medical qualification
  • the type of work you want to do
  • whether or not you have completed a period of post-graduate training or an internship

In addition, IMGs will be required to demonstrate their medical knowledge and skills, and all applicants may have to evidence that they are competent in using the English language before they are registered.

The purpose of this article is to outline the most common route that overseas doctors take to relocate to the UK when applying for full registration with a licence to practise. There are links to articles with more in-depth information available surrounding each stage of the journey. 

Route without a postgraduate qualification 

Step One

You must have completed your primary medical qualification. If your primary medical qualification is from outside of the UK and not a relevant European qualification, you will need to make sure it is accepted in the UK. 

Learn more about primary medical qualification requirements here

Step Two

If you are applying to the GMC for full registration with a licence to practise you will need to prove you have gained the experience to work as a doctor in the UK. In the UK, this is the equivalent of completing the first year of the Foundation Programme (F1). If you have completed a period or pre-graduate or postgraduate experience outside of the UK, this internship must meet the GMC’s criteria.

Learn more about overseas internship requirements here

Step Three

You will need to demonstrate evidence of the necessary knowledge of English to the GMC. This could be through IELTS or OET

Learn more about IELTS and OET

Step Four

Apply to join the UK medical register for doctors with the GMC

Learn more about how to join the medical register here

Step Five

If you graduated from a school outside of the UK, EEA, or Switzerland and want to register with the GMC for full registration with a licence to practise, you will need to take the PLAB test. This is to confirm that you can do the same as a doctor starting their second year of Foundation Programme training (FY2). 

Learn all you need to know about PLAB 1 here

Step Six

Once you have passed PLAB part 1 with the required scores, you will need to book PLAB part 2 which is a practical exam in the UK. 

Learn all you need to know about PLAB 2 here

Step Seven

You will need to get these qualifications independently verified by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates.

Learn all you need to know about EPIC and ECFMG document verification here

Step Eight

Once you have completed steps 1-7 you can apply for your licence to practise with the GMC. 

After you have ensured you have all of the documentation for a valid registration with the GMC you will need to start looking for a job in the UK. You must have a confirmed job offer before you apply for your visa.

You can apply for roles directly with the NHS or utilise the skills and expertise of a third party to guide you through the application process and secure your job interviews. A&E Agency has an experienced and fast-growing permanent division that specialises in supporting international doctors during the entire relocation process. You can contact the team today if you’d like them to help you find a job in the UK or have any questions on PermanentRecruitment@accident-emergency.co.uk.

From 2024, UK medical students and most graduates outside the European Economic Area (EEA) will need to take a new exam. The Medical Licensing Assessment (MLA) builds on the GMC's existing assurance work to set a common threshold for safe practice. UK students will take the MLA as part of their medical degree. Medical graduates trained outside the EEA will take the MLA instead of the PLAB test.

All of the information in this article was accurate at the time of being written in December 2021.