NHS postgraduate qualifications for international doctors

NHS graduates

At Remedium, we’ve supported more than 2,500 international doctors from over 40 countries around the world to find NHS jobs in the UK healthcare system. However, the NHS will only employ doctors who have passed the NHS postgraduate qualifications in their speciality and can communicate effectively in English.

At Remedium we specialise in placing doctors across a broad range of NHS departments including A&E, Medicine, Radiology, Women and Children, Theatres, Pathology, and Psychiatry.

In this article, we outline the NHS postgraduate qualifications you will for each speciality in order to work as a doctor in the NHS.

What is GMC Registration?

The General Medical Council (GMC) is the public body that maintains the official register of all medical practitioners who are fully qualified to work in the UK. You must be registered with the GMC in order to practise as a doctor in the UK.

Doctors who are registered with the GMC agree to follow their principles and standards and must pay an annual fee to the organisation.

How do I achieve GMC Registration?

In order to be eligible for GMC registration, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Hold at least one recognised postgraduate qualification (see below)
  • Passed the IELTS or OET English language qualifications with the required score.

It is essential to achieve a recognised postgraduate qualification and pass the English language exams to ensure that you are eligible for GMC registration and to therefore gain employment in the NHS.

In the rest of this article, we explore the NHS postgraduate qualifications which are recognised by the GMC for each medical specialty.

Which NHS postgraduate qualifications (PGQs) do I need to work in the UK?

International doctors who wish to work in the UK are required to hold at least one recognised NHS postgraduate qualification (PGQ) in order to be eligible for GMC registration.

If you are a doctor who is interested in relocating to the UK but you do not yet have a recognised postgraduate qualification, you can either undertake PLAB or one of the specific postgraduate qualifications from the Royal College associated with your chosen speciality as outlined below.

What is PLAB?

The Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board test, known as the PLAB test, helps NHS trusts know that doctors who qualified abroad have the right knowledge and skills to practise medicine in the UK. PLAB is not specialty specific – rather it is a test administered by the GMC in order to assess whether doctors who qualified abroad have the right knowledge and skills to practise medicine in the UK

Before you can take the PLAB test, you’ll need to set up a GMC Online account and show the examination board your medical qualification, which must be listed in the WHO directory of medical schools. You will also need to demonstrate your knowledge of English. Your information will be verified, and if it meets the GMC requirement requirements you can book your place on part 1 of the PLAB test.

What does the PLAB test involve?

There are two parts to the PLAB test.

  • Part 1 is a multiple-choice exam. You can sit PLAB part 1 in many places around the world.
  • Part 2 is a practical objective structured clinical exam, known as an OSCE. You must take PLAB part 2 at the GMC’s clinical assessment centre in the UK.

You’ll need to pass both parts before you can register with a licence to practise medicine in the UK.

Doctors who have PLAB and an approved English language qualification are qualified to work in the NHS at SHO level or below. However, a recognised postgraduate qualification from one of the British Royal Colleges is generally considered more prestigious by NHS Trust employers and may allow you to enter the NHS at a higher level.

The rest of this article explains which postgraduate qualifications are required by the GMC for each medical specialty.

Emergency Medicine

What is MRCEM?

MRCEM is short for Membership of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine. The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has a range of examinations which will lead to the qualification of the Membership of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine. Doctors who have full MRCEM are eligible for GMC registration and therefore to work as an Emergency Medicine doctor in the UK, provided that they have also achieved the required score in their English language exams.

What does MRCEM involve?

There are three parts to the MRCEM examinations:

  • MRCEM Primary – One written paper
  • MRCEM Intermediate SAQ – Short answer question paper
  • MRCEM OSCE (practical) – Practical examination

What is FRCEM?

FRCEM is short for the Fellowship of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine. Doctors who have full FRCEM are eligible for specialist registration with the GMC and can therefore work as a Substantive Consultant in the UK system.

What does the FRCEM Finals exam involve?

There are two parts to this exam:

  • The first part is a Single Best Answer test of knowledge
  • The second part is the OSCE exam which is a multi-station oral (MSO) exam.

Medicine

What is MRCP?

MRCP is short for Membership of the Royal College of Physicians. Doctors who have full MRCP are eligible for GMC registration and therefore to work as a physician in the UK, provided that they have also achieved the required score in their English language exams. Doctors with MRCP work across all medicine specialties, with the highest demand being in acute medicine, general medicine and geriatric medicine.

What does the MRCP exam involve?

There are 3 parts to this exam:

  • MRCP Part 1 – Multiple choice question paper covering knowledge and understanding of the clinical sciences
  • MRCP Part 2 – Multiple choice question paper covering diagnosis, investigation, management, and prognosis of patients
  • MRCP Paces – Clinical exam (PACES)

What is FRCP?

FRCP is short for Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians. Fellows of the RCP are distinguished consultants or SAS doctors. Fellowship is an accolade bestowed upon distinguished members of the Royal College of Physicians, usually after at least 10 years of being an RCP collegiate member.

Anaesthetics and ICU

What is FRCA?

FRCA is short for Fellowship of The Royal College of Anaesthetics. FRCA is one of the examination routes an anaesthetist can take when looking to obtain full GMC registration in order to work as a doctor in the UK.

You only need FRCA primary to be eligible for GMC registration but there are also other international qualifications accepted by the GMC for anaesthetics. The Royal College of Anaesthetics website outlines all the possible qualifications to register for your GMC.

What does the FRCA exam involve?

 The FRCA consists of two parts:

The first part is split into two – Primary FRCA:

  • Multiple-choice questions
  • A structured clinical exam (OSCE) and structured oral exam

The second part is also split into two – Final FRCA:

  • Multiple choice questions and a short answer question exam paper
  • Structure oral exam

What is EDAIC?

EDAIC stands for the European Diploma of Anaesthetics & Intensive Care. This is an alternative qualification which is also accepted by the GMC for IMGs who wish to practise anaesthetics in the UK.

What does the EDAIC exam involve?

The European Diploma in Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care examination (EDAIC) is a multilingual, end-of-training, two-part examination.

  • The 1st part of the exam consists of two multiple choice papers
  • The 2nd part is an oral exam

Women and Children

What is MRCOG?

MRCOG stands for the Membership of Royal College of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. To work as an Obstetrics and Gynaecology Doctor in the UK at ST3+ level in you will need to have full MRCOG.

What does the MRCOG exam involve?

The MRCOG exam consists of three parts.

  • The first and second parts consists of two written papers for each exam
  • The final part consists of a clinical assessment of knowledge, skills and competencies

What is MRCPCH? 

MRCPCH stands for the Membership of Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health. All UK paediatric trainees sit these exams as part of their training. Doctors who have full MRCPCH are eligible for GMC registration and therefore to work as an paediatrician in the UK, provided that they have also achieved the required score in their English language exams.

What does the MRCPCH exam involve?

There are four parts to the MRCPCH exam:

  • Foundation of Practice (FOP) – theory exam
  • Theory and Science (TAS) – theory exam
  • Applied Knowledge in Practice (AKP) – theory exam
  • MRCPCH Clinical exam

Psychiatry

What is MRCPsych?

MRCPsych stands for Membership of Royal College of Psychiatrists. Doctors who have full MRCPsych and who achieve the required score in their English language exams are eligible for GMC registration and therefore to work as a psychiatrist in the UK.

What does the MRCPsych exam involve?

The exam is designed to test your knowledge of basic medical sciences as well as clinical skills. There are three parts to this exam:

  • Paper A – this is a written assessment about the scientific and theoretical basic of psychiatry
  • Paper B – this is a written assessment about the clinical topics in psychiatry
  • Paper C – this part consists of a clinical assessment of skills and competencies

Surgery

What is MRCS?

MRCS stands for Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons. Doctors who have intercollegiate MRCS or FRCS and who achieve the required score in their English language exams are eligible for GMC registration and therefore to work as a surgeon in the UK.

What does the MRCS exam involve?

  • Part A is a written multiple-choice exam
  • Part B is the OSCE and takes place in a practical setting

Radiology

What is FRCR?

FRCR stands for Fellowship of The Royal College of Radiology. Doctors who have full FRCR and who achieve the required score in their English language exams are eligible for GMC registration and therefore to work as a radiologist in the UK.

What does the FRCR exam involve?

There are three parts to this exam:

The first part of the exam consists of two modules: Anatomy and Physics

  • The physics assessment is a written test paper
  • The anatomy assessment is a computer-based image viewing session

The final part is split into two sections:

  • Part A consists of two 120 question single best answer papers
  • Part B is a clinical exam: a reporting session and an oral examination

Pathology

What is FRCPath?

FRCPath stands for Fellowship of The Royal College of Pathologists. Doctors who have full FRCPath and who achieve the required score in their English language exams are eligible for GMC registration and therefore to work as a pathologist in the UK.

What does the FRCPath exam involve?

The Royal College of Pathologists offers examinations across 20 pathology specialties. Examinations vary depending on your speciality, but always consist of two parts:

  • FRCPath Part 1 consists of two, academically focussed exams taken on the same day
  • FRCPath Part 2 involves of combination a practical and oral examination, depending on your chosen subspecialty

Are you an IMG looking for a role in the NHS?

In this article, we have outlined a long list of NHS postgraduate qualifications across a variety of specialties.

We specialise in placing international and UK-based doctors into permanent and fixed-term roles in NHS Trusts across the UK. We cover a range of specialities including A&E, Medicine, Radiology, Women and Children, Theatres, Pathology and Psychiatry.

If you would like some more advice on relevant qualifications or if you’re looking for a new role in the NHS, you can register your details here and one of the expert recruitment team will be in touch to assist you.

Register with Remedium today

Upload your details and CV so we can match you with the perfect role.

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