New COVID-secure assessment centre opens for overseas doctors
A COVID-secure temporary centre in Manchester, to assess the skills of thousands of overseas doctors who want to work in the UK, has now opened.
The new centre, operated by the General Medical Council (GMC) at its headquarters in Spinningfields, is the regulator’s second such facility in the city. It brings its total assessment capacity back to pre-COVID levels.
Thirty-two doctors, from countries as diverse as Canada, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, are the first to attend the centre for the practical skills test that is the second part of the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB 2) exam. If they pass, they will be an important step closer to joining the UK workforce.
Due to the pandemic, the GMC had to close its main clinical assessment centre, also in Manchester, for four months last year. Since reopening it has only been able to operate at half its capacity due to social distancing requirements.
With the new temporary facility now open the overall capacity has increased. More than 7,000 doctors, who qualified outside the UK and EEA, are already booked to take the PLAB 2 assessment this year. The temporary centre utilises space at the GMC’s Hardman Street offices in Spinningfields, which is available while many of its staff continue to work from home.
Una Lane, The GMC’s Director of Registration and Revalidation, said: "This has been a hugely frustrating time both for us and for the many doctors who want to take the assessment so they can work in the UK. This temporary facility allows us to safely return our overall capacity to pre-Covid levels, so we can maintain the UK’s supply of skilled doctors who meet the high standards we require and that patients rightly expect."
The assessment centre tests doctors’ clinical competence. Candidates face a series of practical scenarios, in specially-designed consultation rooms, where their ability to care for patients is tested and monitored by examiners. The scenarios reflect real life consultations, some with animatronic models and others with actors playing the roles of patients.
It is one of the ways doctors from outside Europe can demonstrate they have the sufficient knowledge and skills to secure GMC registration to work in the UK.
Since reopening in August last year, the GMC has run PLAB 2 at reduced capacity and under strict social distancing and safety measures. Those measures will also be in place at the new temporary centre, which has been designed to allow flexibility, and potentially greater capacity, if and when social distancing requirements are eased.