The BMA has welcomed plans for doctors to acclimatise to UK healthcare before they can apply to join the specialist register through the equivalence route.
Applicants would need to have practised as licensed doctors in the UK for at least 12 months in the previous three years, the GMC said after reviewing entry routes to the specialist and GP registers.
BMA staff, associate specialists and specialty doctors committee joint deputy chair Raj Nirula pointed out that 12 months was twice the period originally proposed by the regulator.
But he added: ‘Six months would have been adequate, but if the GMC feels 12 months is essential then it is not a big issue.’
The GMC also agreed in principle to mandatory testing of specialist knowledge for these applications.
But the regulator accepted that more work was needed as suitable tests did not exist in all specialties, and it recognised that legislation would be necessary for the changes.
The plans mark a move away from documentary evidence towards the evaluation of practice in the workplace.
A GMC council paper acknowledges that ‘to some extent, this involves a transfer of burden rather than its elimination’, but adds that there are far fewer equivalence applications than there are trainees working towards CCTs (certificates of completion of training).
It predicts: ‘By making available to equivalence candidates the sort of assessment infrastructure that is available for trainees, any transfer of burden will be minimised.’
Mr Nirula said workplace assessment could be a positive move, and explained: ‘This could be an opportunity for SAS doctors, who find it difficult to access training in the same way as conventional CCT trainees.’
Eminent doctors from overseas will not have to undergo acclimatisation or have their practice evaluated, but will be assessed on their credentials. GMC council chair Professor Sir Peter Rubin said this would help with recruitment for senior positions at UK universities.
He said: ‘We don’t want to be an obstacle to someone of international acclaim bringing their skills to the UK.’
Mr Nirula agreed that these doctors should not have to go through the same procedures to prove their knowledge and skills. But he added: ‘Certain eminent people from abroad may find acclimatisation useful if they come from different backgrounds.’
BMA medical academic staff committee co-chair Peter Dangerfield said: ‘While a GMC acclimatisation process may not be needed for senior international academics, MASC would expect it would ensure that universities had arranged suitable induction.’