Intended for healthcare professionals


Training overseas doctors in the United Kingdom

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 13 January 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:109

Promoting training opportunities helps to promote British healthcare values

  1. Douglas J Buchanan, director, health,
  2. Geoffrey Smith, medical adviser
  1. British Council, Manchester M1 6BB
  2. Department of Clinical Oncology, Essex County Hospital, Colchester CO3 3NB
  3. Division of Rheumatology, Stanford University School of Medicine, 1000 Welch Road, 203, Stanford, CA 94305-5755, USA
  4. University College London, London W1W 7EJ
  5. Guy's Hospital, London SE1 9RT

    EDITOR—The editorial by Welsh and personal view by Sridhar raise the problems of overseas doctors seeking postgraduate education in the United Kingdom. 1 2 Welsh summarises the difficulties that overseas doctors experience in gaining access to training posts when they have made considerable investment in the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test. These difficulties are not mitigated by the fact that they are unequivocally advised by the British Council and other bodies that there is no link between PLAB test places and job vacancies. The number of approved training posts is not, however, necessarily governed by the limitations of the training process but by the perceived staffing needs. The Royal College of Anaesthetists has drawn a useful distinction between maximum training capacity and funded training posts of a clinical department, and it seems widely accepted that some departments have more capacity than funded posts. A mechanism that will allow overseas trainees to take up unused training capacity will help the training of overseas doctors and through their service commitment enable the overall level of training to be increased.

    There is a group of doctors who are offered scholarships from their employers, international agencies, or the British government. These doctors are usually well advanced in their training and have very specific training objectives. The British Council is able to sponsor such doctors so that they can be awarded limited registration without the requirement to pass the PLAB examination. Some of these doctors are able to compete effectively for specialist registrar posts, but an alternative is needed for those with limited time and very specific objectives. Direct placement to a fixed term training position may become possible, and the British Council is pursuing a method by which this could be achieved.

    For a number of overseas doctors there is no current …

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