'Common sense' prevails for overseas doctors now able to stay in UK to sit exams

by BMA media team

Media release from the BMA

Location: UK
Published: Friday 7 August 2020

Doctors from overseas who faced bills of hundreds of pounds to stay in the UK after exams were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic will now be allowed to take their exams before and remain in the UK without additional charges, thanks to pressure from a range of organisations, including the BMA.

In March, the General Medical Council (GMC) postponed its Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB 2) exams – the final assessment needed before overseas doctors are granted license to practice in the UK – due to concerns around its ability to meet social distancing guidelines. Initially the tests were suspended for 2020, before being rescheduled to August and September.

This meant that around 200 doctors already in the UK faced a visa renewal fee of £993 alongside continued living costs if they wished to stay to sit the tests. Many were unable to return home due to restrictions on flights and being unable to afford the air fare.

After the BMA wrote to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)1 and the Home Office  asking for automatic visa extensions for these doctors, guidance has now been updated allowing them to stay in the UK long enough to take their rescheduled exams at no extra cost.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:

“This news will be of great relief to those international doctors who were stranded in the UK unable to work and who may have faced financial hardship due to the prospect of expensive visa renewal fees. Thanks to lobbying from the BMA and other organisations, these doctors will now be able to sit their exams without having to pay to renew their visas and will finally be able to cross this one last hurdle necessary for them to work in the NHS.

“The NHS is significantly understaffed and we know it relies on our talented international colleagues to provide patients with the high quality care they need, so we are glad that the UKVI Office has listened and introduced a common sense policy that will allow them to sit their exams and contribute their skills to the NHS when they are needed most.”

Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. Hundreds of stranded international doctors face near-£1,000 bill to stay in UK after exams postponed, warns BMA.
  2. The guidance states that those with visas due to expire between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 will now be able to stay until 31 August. A further provision known as “exceptional indemnity” will ensure that PLAB candidates can sit their exams throughout August and September.