The General Medical Council (GMC) has announced that it will be introducing a single national licensing examination to improve its means of assessing the competence of healthcare professionals that wish to work within the NHS.
Designed to give patients assurance about the capabilities of those treating them, regardless of where they received their training, the exam represents the first step towards the introduction of a unified 'passport to practise' for any doctors wishing to work in the UK.
The intention is for this exam to apply to any doctor joining the medical register, although current EU rules will potentially make it difficult to enforce this on those staff coming from within the European Economic Area.
As such, the GMC is encouraging European professionals to to come forward to voluntarily sit the exam to demonstrate they meet the standards required by the NHS - a qualification that would then be noted on their entry on the medical register.
The GMC will be considering the issue again in June 2015, at which point the implementation of the new exam will be discussed in greater detail. It is hoped that it would replace the current entrance examination for international medical graduates.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: "We believe it would be fairer and more reassuring to the public for there to be a single standard for entry to the register that everyone can rely on. Over time the exam should help to drive up standards."
He added: "We are determined to work with our partners to find a way forward that is both workable and puts patient confidence and safety first."
This comes as part of wider plans by the GMC to improve its oversight of medical professionals coming to work in the UK from overseas. Earlier this year, a legal change came into effect that provided the council with greater powers to assess the English language skills of foreign doctors.
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