A purpose-built test centre for overseas doctors has been opened at the GMCs headquarters in London.
The new Clinical Assessment Centre has been designed to allow an increased number of doctors to take Part 2 of the PLAB exam. Previously the GMC hired space from other organisations to hold the test, which was expensive and not always the ideal setting.
The PLAB test so called because it is set by the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board is specifically designed to assess doctors' ability to work safely in a UK hospital.
Part 1 of the PLAB test is a written paper that can be taken either in the UK or selected overseas countries, where it is administered by the British Council. Part 2 tests practical skills and is only taken in the UK. From January all Part 2 tests will be taken at the new test centre in London.
In 2003 1,300 Part 2 places were available - when the new test centre is in full operation in 2004 there will be up to 9,000 places on offer.
The Clinical Assessment Centre has 14 stations that test candidates on their diagnostic, examination, communication and other skills. Some stations use trained role players acting as patients, while life-like manikins are used where scenarios call for specific clinical skills such as suturing, taking blood or catheterisation.
The entire circuit takes about one and a half hours in a strictly controlled environment, with candidates having one minute to read the instructions at each station before spending five minutes completing each set task.
Opening the new test centre, GMC President Professor Sir Graeme Catto said it would be of great benefit both to candidates and the health service.
The Clinical Assessment Centre is a great step forward for the GMC. We will be able to ensure increased quality control and consistency of tests for candidates.