MRCPCH vs PLAB - GMC Registration for IMG Paediatricians 

  • April 13, 2023

GMC Registration can be a long and complex process. With several options available for overseas doctors to demonstrate evidence of their skills and knowledge, it can be difficult to decide the best route to take to register with the GMC.  

For international doctors planning their route to the UK, the two most common and popular routes by far are the UK postgraduate qualifications (MRCPCH for paediatricians) or PLAB. Here we provide a summary of both pathways and briefly consider their benefits to help you make the best choice in your journey to the UK as an IMG. 

Skip ahead to the relevant section if you know what you’re looking for. 

GMC Registration for Overseas Doctors

Registering with the GMC is a multi-stage process, including key timings actions and documents. To receive full registration, international doctors must provide evidence of:  

What is often the most long and challenging part of the process is providing sufficient evidence of skills and knowledge, however, you can check whether you have a GMC-accepted postgraduate qualification here

There are 5 ways in which an overseas doctor can demonstrate their skills and knowledge: 

  • PLAB 
  • Acceptable Postgraduate Qualification / Licensing Examination 
  • Relevant European Qualification 
  • Sponsorship / MTI 

Please note that only one type of evidence is required to demonstrate skills and knowledge for GMC registration. 

Of these routes, the most accessible are PLAB and the Acceptable Postgraduate Qualification because they are two of the only routes that do not depend on the country you’ve trained in – the UK postgraduate exams and PLAB can be sat by doctors. 

For a detailed breakdown of all the routes available to IMGs, see our blog here

Professional & Linguistics Assessment Board (PLAB)

The first and most common route we’ll be discussing, which is particularly popular among junior doctors, is PLAB

PLAB is a two-part exam (one written and one practical element), which assesses whether a candidate is at least as capable as a doctor starting the second year of their Foundation Programme Training (FY2 or F2) and can therefore work safely as an SHO (Senior House Officer) in the NHS. 

The GMC has produced a useful video summary of the PLAB exams which you can watch here, or for a more detailed overview, see our IMG Resources library. 

MRCPCH - UK Postgraduate Qualification for Paediatricians

The UK’s postgraduate qualifications are a more popular route for senior overseas doctors, and those looking to gain posts in the NHS which are reflective of their experience. 

For paediatrics, this can be done by attaining Membership of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) is the professional body that regulates the specialism of paediatrics in the UK, and MRCPCH is the full qualification attained through these examinations. 

Take a look at our IMG Resources library for complete guides on MRCPCH to learn more. 


Both MRCPCH and PLAB are respectable routes that demonstrate skills and knowledge and will allow an international doctor to register with the GMC and work in the UK. To decide which route of the two is best for you, you’ll need to consider the benefits of each and how they align with your needs and priorities in moving to the UK. 

Seniority of Positions in the NHS

It would be difficult for an overseas paediatrician to obtain a more senior post in the NHS without either MRCPCH, a GMC-approved training programme, or extensive experience from a similar, English-speaking healthcare system. PLAB alone will not give overseas doctors access to senior posts in the NHS. 


To practice as a consultant in the UK, you must have gone through specialty training and will need a GMC-recognised postgraduate qualification to do so, whether a qualification from the country in which you completed your specialty training, or MRCPCH. 


PLAB has two stages and can take anywhere between 3-9 months to prepare from start to finish. 

MRCPCH has four stages, the last of which must be taken after at least 30 months of postgraduate experience with at least 12 months involving the care of emergency paediatric patients and can take anywhere between 24-36 months to prepare from start to finish. 


MRCPCH has varying costs depending on whether you sit the exams in the UK or overseas. If sitting the exam in the UK, the exams can cost around £1,985, whereas sitting the exams overseas can cost up to £3,235.  

PLAB costs £1,189, and whilst PLAB 1 can be sat in many overseas centres around the world, PLAB 2 is only delivered in the UK. You can find a list of overseas centres for PLAB 2 here

So for both MRCPCH and PLAB, candidates will have to travel to the UK, meaning that the additional cost of visas, accommodation and flights must be factored in. 

It’s also important to note that these costs can rise if re-sits of the exams are necessary. 


PLAB, as an exam which examines a doctor’s ability to work safely as an SHO, does not assess ability in paediatrics specifically. For this reason, PLAB tends to be a route for junior doctors who have not already chosen their field of specialisation in medicine, I.e., paediatrics. 

PLAB allows doctors to enter the UK system much faster than other routes and for this reason alone, it is favoured by international doctors when considering their path to the UK. 

MRCPCH involves three more difficult examinations and takes more time to prepare for. However, for overseas doctors, attaining MRCPCH will allow you to jumpstart your career in the UK, as you don't need PLAB or Core Training. 

Additionally, MRCPCH will facilitate the application for more senior roles in UK paediatrics than PLAB. 

#IMG Tips

  1. Determine your priorities – your goals and timeline for relocating to the UK are important in deciding which route is best for, and this is different for everyone. 
  2. Plan well ahead – depending on the route you choose, you may be embarking on a long journey through these exams, so plan how you will fit them into your life and how best to prepare to maintain a good work-life balance at the same time. 
  3. Find a support network – once you know which exams you will sit, find a support network of others who are also preparing for the exam.  


Getting started

Once you’ve decided which exams are best for you, it’s time to delve deeper into the exams and what they entail. For more useful blogs and articles on PLAB or MRCPCH, registrations and qualifications to help you find your dream job in the NHS - take a look at our IMG Resources library.  

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with one our recruitment specialists if you would like to discuss your options in the NHS once you have completed PLAB or MRCPCH.  

Follow us on social media through the links below for regular news and updates on the Royal Colleges, relocating to the UK and working in the NHS: 



Relevant Jobs

88,364 - 119,133

An excellent opportunity for an experienced Consultant in Community Paediatrics to join a Health Board in North Wales that promotes equality and diversity. If you love a challenge, have a passion to help others or simple fancy a fresh start, then this Health Board has all the ingredients. The post if suitable for overseas consultants, including candidates who are pursuing CESR. Specialists in Community Paediatrics holding a specialist certification would be suitable for this post, based on experience entering at either Specialty Doctor or Consultant grade. 

Overseas applications from experienced Specialty Doctors and Consultants are welcomed. 


The Health Board is largest health organisation in Wales, that are developing an integrated health service which provides excellent care delivered in partnership with the public and other statutory and third sector organisations.

The Health Board have a budget of £1.3 billion and a workforce of over 17,000 staff. Providing primary, community, mental health and acute hospital services for the population of around 700,000 across of North Wales. They continuously develop their workforce so that it has the right skills and operates in a research-rich learning culture.

Besides their three main hospital sites, they are also responsible for community hospitals, health centres, clinics, mental health units, community teams, GP practices and other NHS services provided by dentists, opticians and pharmacists. They plan to improve the health of the population, with particular focus upon the most vulnerable in our society.


All health services for children in North Wales, including Community Child Health, are delivered by the Children & Young People Division. The area has a population of around 275,000, including a childhood population of almost 60,000. The service encompass Acute Paediatrics and Neonatology, Community Child Health, Health Visiting and School Nursing, Neurodevelopmental and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

All Consultants take on particular areas of responsibility with committee service and representation, and the new consultant will be expected to play a full part in such duties. For Acute Paediatric Services, there are just over 4600 admissions each year to the paediatric ward with around 2600 being emergency admissions. The department provides high dependency care and short-term intensive care to acutely ill children and young people. There is a comprehensive CAMHS service with 5 Consultant child and adolescent psychiatrists based in the community. 

The successful applicant will work with the other community paediatricians to develop the integrated Child Health Services in the Health Board to provide a comprehensive service. The post holder will share the duties below with the existing Consultants and their teams, each leading on agreed aspects of the work. The post holder will be responsible for children with a wide variety of presentations, including developmental and behavioural concerns, developmental assessments, child protection concerns, care of children with complex neuro-disability, and palliative care needs and providing pre-school and school health services.


North Wales has a vast national park, purpose built mountain biking trails, a breath taking coastal path, soaring zip wire, food festivals and world class sport and adventure around every corner. The North Wales is equipped with sport and leisure centres that provide opportunities for a wide variety of sporting, fitness and recreational activities. Not only does it have lots of activities for you, it also has a wide selection of private housing is available, both traditional and modern in towns, villages and rural settings.

For doctors with family, the educational standards are consistently high in both the primary and secondary sectors. There are several well established independent schools within North Wales and the surrounding area that cater for both day pupils and boarders. The regional University with its excellent scholastic reputation has a thriving student community.

You can say goodbye to heavy inner city commuter traffic, and enjoy a breath-taking commute across North Wales.


With an extremely active education/teaching programme supported by the consultant team, there is opportunity to work towards and complete CESR, exams, get involved in active research and many aspects of CPD. 

Participation in research and educational activities will be encouraged.


EEA Candidates:

  • Experience of working in Community Paediatrics
  • Board Certified Specialist in Community Paediatrics

Non-EEA Candidates:

  • Experience of working in Community Paediatrics

UK based applicants

  • Experience of working in Community Paediatrics
  • Within 6 - 12 months of completing CCT
88,364 - 119,133

An outstanding opportunity for experienced Consulant in Community Paediatrics to join an NHS Trust that is committed to supporting candidates with CESR. This Trust is one of the largest employers in the region and their members and staff are dedicated professionals whose work is varied, challenging and makes a real difference to people’s health and well-being.

The post is suitable for candidates holding specialisation in the EEA, or for experienced IMGs looking to complete CESR.

The Trust is one of the largest organisations in the country and they employ over 6,000 dedicated staff with an annual turnover of £380 million who provides service to 525,000 people that live within the area. Their services are mainly provided from two district general hospitals, both have Emergency Departments and provide care 24 hours a day. They offer a comprehensive range of surgical, medical and maternity services supported by a full range of diagnostic and therapy services.

The role of the NHS Trust is to provide the best possible healthcare service to patients, who come first in everything the organisation does. Safe patient care is the Trust's highest priority. They will provide high quality clinical services that achieve and demonstrate optimum clinical outcomes and provide an excellent care experience for patients. The employees will be valued and respected. They will be involved in decisions about the services they provide and offered the training and development that they need to fulfill their roles.

They will operate efficiently and effectively, diagnosing and treating patients in timely fashion and expediting their return to health. They will use their resources efficiently and effectively for the benefit of their patients and their care to ensure our services are clinically, operationally, and financially sustainable.


The team is a group of people that are dynamic and prioritises their patients. The deparment service runs child development clinics across the county. From the summer of 2021 the main community hub will be at one of their main sites, with satellite clinics in community settings across the county and at two of their major sites. Neuro-disability clinics are run weekly on each side of the county.

All general paediatric consultants in the department provide a service to examine children for physical abuse medicals, when on call. The community paediatricians are involved in cases of neglect, welfare medicals and when called on for advice for physical abuse. Assessments for Autism Spectrum Disorders are multidisciplinary and involve community paediatricians, speech and language therapists and/or clinical psychologists and the specialist community nursing team.

A sleep service has been developed for children with neurodevelopmental disorders and difficulties. This is a multidisciplinary clinic run by a Community Paediatrician, Clinical Psychologist and Nurse Advisor. The Community Consultants will provide clinical supervision, support and education for members of the Community Child Health Team, i.e. the Specialist Grades, Associate Specialist and Specialist Registrar(s) for Community Paediatrics. 


The region has a natural beauty. Sussex has some fantastic natural features such as the Seven Sisters National Park, and many areas of outstanding natural beauty that include the medieval heathland and forests of the High Weald. It also has beaches and harbours where people can go to during their dayoffs.

Besides its natural beauty, there's a rich array of accommodation options, ranging from the five star Grand Hotel on Eastbourne seafront to quaint B&Bs set amid beautiful Sussex countryside. East Sussex offers a rich array of culture, with art galleries such as the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings and the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne and an array of theatre and entertainment venues such as the De La Warr Pavillion in Bexhill, Congress and Deveonshire Park Theatres in Eastbourne and the White Rock Theatre in Hastings.


The combination of clinical practice and first-class academic connections means that medical professionals have a wide range of opportunities to develop their careers and achieve their aspirations. You will have access to leadership, teaching, educational and research opportunities for Continued Professional Develop (CPD).

If you are a new consultant you will receive mentoring and support from medical leads as well as access to a large peer group of enthusiastic and high-caliber Consultants.


EEA Candidates:

  • Experience of working in Community Paediatrics
  • Board Certified Specialist in Community Paediatrics

Non-EEA Candidates:

  • Experience of working in Community Paediatrics

UK based applicants

  • Experience of working in Community Paediatrics
  • Within 6 - 12 months of completing CCT
88,364 - 119,133

An excellent opportunity for an experienced Consultant or Specialist Paediatrician to join the leading provider of specialist child health services in the South East of England. The post if suitable for overseas paediatricians, including candidates who are pursuing CESR. Specialists in Paediatricians, holding a specialist certification would be suitable for this post, based on experience entering at either Specialty Doctor, Specialist Grade (Associate Specialist) or Consultant grade. 

Overseas applications from experienced paediatricians looking to secure their first job in the NHS are welcomed. 


The NHS Foundation Trust is formed by the merger of three NHS trusts in April 2005, with an emphasis on the mental sides of healthcare. The NHS Trust runs a total of 39 sites across their area. They deliver high quality care across our 140 services and they employ over 2,500 staff serving a population of 1.2 million. Their services are provided in community settings, hospitals, and residential homes.

The NHS Foundation Trust is rated "good" overall by the CQC in May 2020. They are the leading provider of health and social care services for people of all ages with neurodevelopmental conditions, neurodisability, mental ill-health and learning disabilities in their area. The NHS Trust has 2,300 excellent staff, and a £155m budget. Their core purpose is to work with people and lead communities in improving their mental and physical health and wellbeing for a better life through delivering excellent and responsive prevention, diagnosis, early intervention, treatment and care.

In 2015, the NHS Trust opened another Hospital, the first major mental health hospital to be erected in Surrey for more than 90 years. The building provides the latest innovations in modern mental health care. This state of the art facility offers people treatment in a light and spacious environment that is therapeutic and promotes wellbeing. It represents a new era of mental health care that focuses on recovery and preventative measures to help people stay well. 


The Department is a strong team with a range of skills and interests. Across the Children and Family Health in their area, the establishment consists of 14 full time doctors working in developmental paediatrics: this is a mix of Consultants, Associate Specialists and Specialty doctors. Team wide meetings with all the developmental paediatricians are currently held every month, and incorporate CPD, Clinical Governance and service design.

Paediatric services are delivered in a variety of settings including community clinics, community hospitals and in special schools. The service offers excellent opportunities to develop your skills and is committed to regular training and CPD events. We strive to ensure continued progress and a dynamic approach to development both to you as an individual in your career development as well as for continued service development.

The post holder will provide specialist assessment, diagnosis and ongoing care to children and young people and families in Surrey. The Department offers a supportive and encouraging environment in which to develop as a professional with opportunities to develop in specialist fields.


The area is England's most wooded county and home to rolling hills and valleys, as well as some of the best gardens in Britain. There are so many things you and your family can do, from visiting award-winning vineyards and relaxing at country pubs, restaurants and hotels to exploring ancient heathland, stunning hilltop views, beautiful waterways and charming towns and villages. Life in the area will offer you and your family fantastic schools, beautiful countryside, bustling districts with fantastic leisure opportunities, & historic market towns with a vibrant cafe culture. 

There are a wealth of options in the area to give your children the best possible education, whatever type of school you're looking for. The transport is not an issue as well, since there is the Southwest Trains that provide services to and from London Waterloo, and the Southern that operates to and from London Victoria. There are two airports within 20 miles from the area as well.

With an extremely active education/teaching programme supported by the consultant team, there is opportunity to work towards and complete CESR, RCPsych exams, get involved in active research and many aspects of CPD. 

Participation in research and educational activities will be encouraged.

EEA Candidates:

  • Experience of working in Paediatrics
  • Board Certified Specialist in Paediatrics (desirable)

Non-EEA Candidates:

  • Experience of working in Paediatrics

UK based applicants

  • Experience of working in Paediatrics
  • Within 12 months of completing CCT

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