A Medical Oncologist's Route to the UK - EEA & Non-EEA
May 02, 2022
There are several routes a medical oncologist can take to register with the GMC and practice oncology in the NHS.
Medical oncologists looking to secure a job in the NHS must satisfy certain criteria before they can be fully registered with the GMC (General Medical Council) and receive a license to practice in the NHS. For oncology, these criteria depend on where you received your training, and the qualifications you hold.
In this blog, we’re giving you a snapshot of the steps you need to take to start your journey to the UK, as an overseas oncologist. We’ll be covering the following:
Skip ahead to the relevant section if you know what you're looking for.
Evidence of knowledge and skills for EEA medical oncologists
For oncologists who trained in an EEA country (all countries inside the EU, also Lichtenstein, Iceland, Switzerland & Norway), there are several options potentially available to you.
Depending on the country and year you completed your residency or basic medical training, the GMC may automatically recognise your qualifications and grant you either General Registration, or Specialist Registration in the UK. To find out if your country’s qualifications will allow you to register for either GMC registration, check the relevant GMC page here.
Basic Medical Training
If you have met the requirements for basic medical training, you would notneed to demonstrate your medical knowledge and skills to work as a doctor in the UK, and would therefore not need to complete a Royal College postgraduate qualification or PLAB to register with a license to practice. You would be granted full registration in this case, but not Specialist Registration.
Specialist Training / Residency
Not all European Specialist qualifications are accepted by the GMC. If you have met the GMC’s criteria pertaining to your county, then you should be eligible for Specialist Registration in oncology. So as a medical oncologist, if you hold a Relevant European Specialist qualification, you would be put on the specialist register for medical oncology and can be appointed as a substantive oncologist in the NHS.
Please note, the criteria that is outlined on your country’s GMC registration page must be met. If your training was undertaken prior to the dates mentioned by the GMC – your qualifications will not be accepted.
For EEA oncologists, the main hurdle that you will face will be demonstrating that your English skills are of a high enough standard to practice safely as a doctor in the NHS.
As a European oncologist, this is most likely the easiest route to becoming GMC-registered and being able to practice oncology in the UK.
If you do not meet the GMC requirements for your training to be approved for general or specialist registration, other routes you may consider to GMC registration include PLAB, or (via the postgraduate route) the Royal College exams for medical oncology (MRCP). You can find out more about these alternative routes here.
Evidence of knowledge and skills for non-EEA oncologists
If you qualified as a medical oncologist outside the EEA, then you will have to demonstrate that both your medical knowledge and skills AND English Language capabilities meet the level required to practice safely in the UK.
Oncologists who've trained from outside the UK and EEA and must demonstrate to the GMC they have sufficient knowledge & skills to practice safely in the UK. For medical oncologists this can be done through one of three main routes:
Professional & Linguistics Assessment Board (PLAB)
The PLAB exam is a two-part exam that assesses a doctor’s ability to work safely as an SHO in the NHS, as such it does not demonstrate ability in oncology specifically. For this reason, PLAB tends to be a route for junior doctors who have not already chosen their field of specialisation in medicine. That said, for some senior doctors PLAB can be an attractive option, offering a quicker route to the UK, whilst still securing competitive salaries. If taking this option, medical oncologists can then take up training or a more senior post once they have established themselves in the NHS. Take a look through our comprehensive guides on PLAB.
Royal College of Physicians
Attaining a Royal College qualification is a preferred path for doctors who have already chosen their field of specialism i.e. medical oncology. Oncologists taking this route will gain access to more senior, well-paid jobs in the NHS. The Royal College of Physicians is the professional body that regulates the specialism of medical oncology in the UK, and Membership of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP) is the full qualification attainable by examination. For overseas doctors, attaining MRCP will satisfy the knowledge & skill criteria for GMC registration and facilitate application for more senior roles in UK oncology. Take a look at IMG Resources library for complete guides on MRCP to learn more.
GMC-recognised or equivalent qualifications
Some overseas qualifications and licensing exams are recognised by the GMC and accepted for registration purposes. This is to say these qualifications or licensing exams are considered as meeting the same standards as the Royal College qualifications.
Both EEA and non-EEA oncologists, regardless of experience, and country of origin, must demonstrate that they have a sufficient grasp and competence of the English language. This can be done by passing either the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or the OET (OET – Occupational English Test). Detailed guides to these tests can be found below:
For doctors who have at least two years of their most recent experience in an English-speaking country, you can use a reference from your current employer or employers over these two or more years to demonstrate competence of the English language. This would exempt you from sitting an English language exam.
Certificate of Good Standing
All doctors registering with the GMC must provide a certificate of good standing from each medical regulatory authority they’ve been registered or licensed with in the last five years.
The medical regulatory authority may send you a certificate of past good standing if you're not currently registered or licensed with them. You can find out which medical regulatory authority to contact via the GMC website here.
If there's no medical regulatory authority in the country to issue a certificate, the GMC will give you further advice once your application has been assessed.
Please note that each certificate is only valid for three months from the date it's signed and must be valid when we approve your application.
Once you’ve completed your English language exam, you can now apply for full GMC registration with a license to practice. For registration, you must provide evidence of:
English language capabilities - either your IELTS, OET or an approved reference from your current employer (if you have been working in an English-speaking country for the last two years).
Certificate of good standing – the certificate from your medical regulatory authority which demonstrates good standing.
(EEA oncologists) Sufficient skill and knowledge – as an EEA oncologist, this would either be your recognised EEA qualification.
(Non-EEA oncologists) Sufficient skill and knowledge – as a non-EEA oncologist, this would either be PLAB, MRCP or a GMC-approved qualification.
To understand the registration process more fully, read our article on GMC registration for overseas doctors here.
If you or your family are from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein and started living in the UK by 31 December 2020, you may be able to apply to the free EU Settlement Scheme. Otherwise, you will need to apply for a visa from the Home Office.
A Health & Care visa (Tier 2 visa) is the document given to a skilled worker by the UK Home Office following a job offer from a UK employer with a valid Tier 2 Sponsorship License. The list of valid Tier 2 Sponsors can be found here.
So, there you have it! Hopefully this helps to clarify any worries or doubts you may have on your route to the UK as a medical oncologist planning a career in the NHS. If you have any questions or would like to know more about the medical oncology job market, then get in touch with our team.
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