There are several routes a haematologist can take to register with the GMC and practice in the NHS.
Haematologists looking to secure a job in the NHS must satisfy certain criteria before fully registering with the GMC (General Medical Council) to receive a license to practice. For haematology, these criteria depend on where you received your training, and the qualifications you hold. In this blog, we’ll be giving you a snapshot of the steps you need to take to begin your journey to the UK as an overseas haematologist.
We’ll be covering the following:
Will my training be recognised in the UK?
How do I demonstrate my knowledge and skills as an EEA haematologist?
How do I demonstrate my knowledge and skills as a non-EEA haematologist?
How can I demonstrate my English language skills?
What is a certificate of good standing and how do I get one?
What do I need to register with the GMC?
Will I need a visa to work in the UK?
Skip ahead to the relevant section if you know what you’re looking for.
Recognition of training
For haematologists 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.
Knowledge and Skills for EEA Haematologists
Basic Medical Training: If you meet the requirements for basic medical training, you will not need 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, without Specialist Registration.
Specialist Training / Residency: If you meet the criteria for entry onto the Specialist Register, then once you have completed the GMC application process, you would be granted Specialist Registration in haematology and can be appointed as a substantive or permanent consultant in the NHS. So as a haematologist, if you hold a Relevant European Specialist qualification, you would be put on the specialist register for haematology and can be appointed as a substantive haematologist in the NHS.
As an EEA haematologist, the main hurdle 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.
Therefore, for European haematologists, this is most likely the easiest route to becoming GMC-registered and being able to practice haematology 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 haematology (FRCPath). You can find out more about these alternative routes here.
Knowledge and Skills for non-EEA Haematologists
If you qualified as a haematologist 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.
Haematologists who have trained from outside the UK and EEA must demonstrate to the GMC they have sufficient knowledge & skills to practice safely in the UK. This can be done through 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 haematology 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, haematologists 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 Pathologists: The Royal College of Pathologists is the professional body that regulates the specialism of haematologists in the UK, and Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists (FRCPath) is the full qualification attainable by examination. For overseas doctors, attaining FRCPath will satisfy the knowledge & skill criteria for GMC registration and facilitate application for more senior roles in UK pathology. Take a look at IMG Resources library for a complete guide to FRCPath to learn more.
Please note that only UK trainee haematologists are required to also complete the MRCP (UK) examinations. You can read more about this here.
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.
To find out if your qualification is accepted by the GMC, take a look at our blog: Overseas accepted postgraduate qualifications
English Language Testing
Both EEA and non-EEA haematologists, 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:
IELTS – a guide for overseas doctors
OET – a guide for overseas doctors
Experience in English-speaking countries
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 haematologists) Sufficient skill and knowledge – as an EEA haematologist, this would either be your recognised EEA qualification.
(Non-EEA haematologist) Sufficient skill and knowledge – as a non-EEA haematologist, 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 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.
Understand Tier 2 visas and Certificates of Sponsorship in depth by taking a look at our article: Tier 2 Visa application process & documents needed.
Wondering whether you can relocate with your family? Take a look at our blog on the Tier 2 dependent visa below: Tier 2 Dependent visa - Can I bring my family with me to the UK?
So there you have it! Hopefully this clarifies any questions or doubts you may have on your route to the UK as a haematologist planning a career in the NHS. If you have any questions, or wish to know more about the haematology job market then get in touch with our team.
For regular news and updates on all things pathology, including the Royal College, GMC registration and the NHS, follow us on social media and join the conversation.
Overseas Haematologists wanting to secure a role in the UK via the postgraduate qualificaiton route will need to attain Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists or FRCPath in Haematology, a sub-specialty exam of FRCPath. FRCPath is the UK Royal College qualification and the recommended route for histopathologists looking to work in the UK as a specialist or consultant.
International Medical Graduates (IMGs) from any country in the world can sit the sub-specialty FRCPath in Haemotology examinations, provided certain eligibility criteria are met. These are summarised below along with a broad look at the following topics:
What is FRCPATH in Haematology?
Eligibility for overseas doctors
FRCPath Haematology structure and format
FRCPATH in Haematology Part 1
FRCPATH in Haematology Part 2
As an overseas candidate where can I take the exams and how much will they cost me?
How do I apply?
How to prepare and what resources are available?
Passed? What next?
What is FRCPath in Haematology?
Set against the Specialty Training Curriculum for Haematology, the examinations are designed to assess a trainee’s knowledge, skills and behaviours in field of Haematology. The exams recognise haematologists close to the end of their training who can demonstrate sufficient knowledge and technique for independent practice. In other words, completion of the full set of exams (Part 1 & 2) demonstrates your ability to work at consultant level.FFRCPath, along with MRCP(UK), is a mandatory requirement for Specialist Registration in Haematology. You can read our overview on MRCP(UK) here.
The FRCPath exam is split into 2 parts:
Part 1 – two written papers sat on the same day, comprised of essay and multiple-choice questions.
Part 2 – held over three days, the exams comprise of three written components and one oral examination
Eligibility for FRCPath in Haematology:
Below we outline the eligibility for overseas doctors looking to sit both FRCPath Haematology exams. For international candidates, the eligibility criteria for FRCPath specialty examinations can be a little confusing when looking online so IMG Connect spoke to the Royal College directly to clarify this.
Time spent in haematology training is stated as a requirement of eligibilty. The Royal College do consider equivalents to NHS training programmes though there is no definitive list of countries with accepted or unaccepted training programmes. The royal college advises you should speak to your Educational Supervisor or Sponsor (if you have one) who can advise you if you are ready or eligible to sit the Examinations if you are unsure. Remember, there are many overseas doctors applying for all parts of the FRCPath exams so don’t be put off applying!
Top Tip: If you have the required months training in a recognised programme in your country for Haematology specifically, the chances are you will be eligible.
Eligibility for Part 1: You are required to have trained in a recognised training programme in haematology for a period of no less than two years.
Eligibility for Part 2: The Royal College expects you to have at least three years of specialty training specific to Haematology in your own country before applying. Furthermore, you cannot sit Part 2 examination until 12 months after successfully completing Part 1.
Structure of FRCPath Haematology:
The exam is split into 2 parts with 5 individual examinations in total. This makes it one of the more complex examinations
Structure and content for FRCPath Haematology Part 1:
The exam is split into 2 parts with 5 individual examinations in total.
Part 1 comprises two written papers, Paper 1 (Essay Paper) and Paper 2 (MCP Paper)
Part 2 comprises three written papers, and one Oral exam
Part 1, Paper 1 (essay paper) – four essay questions each addressing an important area of laboratory or clinical practice in one of the four areas:
Haemostasis & thrombosis
Part 1, Paper 2 (MCP paper) – 125 questions of both multiple choice and extended matching format. 50 questions will be best from five whilst 75 are extended matching and examines knowledge of:
blood transfusion 25%
general haemotology 25%
haematological oncology 25%
haemostasis & thrombosis 25%
Most questions are structured around clinical or laboratory vignettes and are designed to assess clinical judgement and ability to apply, rather than just recall knowledge. Questions map to the Haematology training curriculum. The blueprint from which the questions are developed can be found on the Royal College website.
Structure and content for FRCPath Haematology Part 1:
3 written papers and 1 oral examination as below.
Morphology, Long cases
12 short answer questions
3 questions long answer
The exam is held simultaneously over 3 days in the UK only and evaluates your knowledge, skills and clinical judgement in important areas within the Haemotology. The questions in the written papers adopt a short answer format which requires you to provide a concise response, these answers can be given in short words, phrases or lists.
Top Tip: A series of questions may relate to ‘clinical vignette’ building on case information. Clinical vignettes are patient related cases and scenarios that have educational value for a wider audience.
Morphology - SAQs: This section is up to 12 questions answered in 1 hour 30 minutes. Each question requires you to examine 1-2 of either of the following:
flow cytometry plots
additional laboratory data
Morphology - Long cases: This sections comprises 3 questions answered in 1 hour 30 minutes. Each question will provide a case history and contains several parts which require either:
Interpretation of slides, lab results or other clinical investigations
Provide a report and make diagnosis
Recommend clinical investigations and interventions
Transfusion: This section consists of 10 questions answered in 2 hours. Each question will provide a case history or lab results requiring you to:
Recommend further investigation or treatment
Coagulation: This section consists of 8 questions answered in 2 hours. Each question will provide a case history or lab results requiring you to:
Recommend further investigation or treatment
Oral Examination: The oral examination assesses your ability to evaluate problems and demonstrate good clinical judgement whilst assessing your ability to communicate clearly and effectively. The exam covers 8 topics over 1 hour, with two 30-minute oral exams with two pairs of examiners.
First Exam - 2 topics in coagulation & 2 topics in transfusion medicine
Second Exam - 2 topics in general laboratory haematology & 2 topics in haematological oncology
Where can I take the exams and how much will they cost me?
FRCPath in Haematology - Part 1: In Spring 2021, the Part 1 examination will be offered using online delivery to candidates. This means you can take the exam remotely and will not need to travel overseas to sit the exam, or attend an examination centre. The College will deliver the written components of these examinations through a company called TestReach, the Oral components (including oral OSPE stations) will be delivered using a video-conferencing platform such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams and for the written examinations, candidates will be given the opportunity to trial the TestReach system to familiarise themselves with it ahead of the examination. You can read more about the new, remote examination process further here on our website. Previously, the Part 1 examination was sat in multiple overseas centres and once the pandemic is under better control globally, it is highly anticipated the Royal College will return to previous set-ups.
The FRCPath Part 1 exam costs £622. You can see how the Royal College breaks down the cost here on their website.
FRCPath in Haematology - Part 2: Haematology Part 2 is one of the few exams that can be sat overseas. Availability of overseas Part 2 examination centres will be indicated on the website and candidates should contact the Examinations Department to express their interest in taking the examination in the available centre. In 2021 no overseas Part 2 examinations will take place in the Spring session, and it is highly unlikely an overseas centre will be available for Haematology in 2021.
The FRCPath Part 2 exam costs £1,308. You can see how the Royal College breaks down the cost here on their website.
How do I apply?
Applications must be made via the Royal College of Pathologists website, with applications only available once an application window is opened by the Royal College.
How to prepare and what resources are available?
With lots of resources available online, we have discussed with consultants the best place to start looking for materials relating to the exams. Most recommended starting with the Royal College, who have created useful resources to help you to prepare for the exams.
Curriculum: The content of the exam is set against the Haematology Training Curriculum. We recommend getting to know the curriculum as early as possible and using it as a road map for your study plan.
Regulations and Guidelines: Before applying for FRCPath examinations, the Royal College recommends you read both the General & Specialty Specific regulations and guidelines:
General Regulations and Guidelines
Royal College - Haematology Regulations & Guidelines
Past papers: Test your knowledge using example questions from the current exam syllabus provided by the Royal College, see below:
Part 1 – six past papers
Blueprint for MCQ Examination: The blueprint from which the MCQ questions are developed..
British Society of Haematology guidelines: Compulsory reading material for exams and day-to-day clinical practice. Make sure to read them, understand them and know the recommendations made in bold. Be aware that the guidelines are a few years old and imminently due for review.
British Society for Haematology educational resources: Click here for the British Society for Haematology edcuational resources. Morphology image bank, case reports, practice essay questions, EMQs, MCQs and tutorials. Signup and login required but you don’t need to be a member to make use of the BSH’s bank of essay questions, MCQs and EMQs
Blood Journal: How I treat articles: Click here for easy-to-read helpful overviews of most haematological conditions
Ihaematology.com: http://www.ihaematology.com/ is a great revision site created by previous candidates.
Haembase: Click here for Haembase. This is a general revision resource for those preparing for FRCPath examinations
Our on-the-day exam advice:
Part 2 – food and drink: With multiple exams taking place for Part 2 in one day bring supplies! It will be a long day and there may not be access to food.
Hiring a microscope: For Part 2 you will be required to sit examinations in the UK and will require a microscope. The examination centres will not provide equipment for any applicants so you will need to hire a microscope in advance. There are a few companies easily accessible through a web search, find a microscope and book well in advance of the exam. You can arrange for the company to drop off and pick up the microscope from the exam centre, don’t worry!
Top Tip: At IMG Connect we recommend speaking to anyone you know who has sat and passed the exam and get their personal hints and tips. We would also be happy to help you arrange anything you need for the exam day.
I passed the FRCPath Heamatology exams! What next?
First of all, congratulations! After you have passed all parts of FRCPath Haematology you can apply for a full registration with a license to practice. Once the GMC have approved your application, you can work as a doctor in the UK and given the high standards of the FRCPath Haematology examinations, you will most likely be eligible to practice as a consultant in the NHS.
If you have applied for an exam which is held in a UK test centre, you will need a UK Visitor Visa to enter the UK and sit the exam.
Here we have put together the main information you will need as well as useful links to get you started and we will look at the following:
How do I apply?
Online application for UK Visa
What supporting documents do I need to prepare and provide?
What costs can I expect in the UK?
What happens if my visa application is refused?
The first thing to suggest, is that as soon as you receive your results for the first exams e.g. FRCPath Part 1, PLAB 1 etc., start planning the date that you want to sit the in-person exam. This will not only help you prepare for the test itself, but also will ensure that when you apply for the Visitor Visa, you will be prepared for the visa application and appointment, and able to visit the UK within the 6-month visa period.
It is worth noting, that no matter what the guidance and instructions are, visa applications can prove different for everyone, so start working on the application early.
If you are not sure if you need a visa – you can check here.
You can apply for a Standard Visitor Visa if you are a doctor and are coming to the UK to sit an in-person exam, such as an OSCE, PLAB 2 or FRCPath Part 2 exam. The option you require is a Work, Academic visit or Business visa and the duration is less than six months.
How do I apply?
The UK Visa Application for UK examinations can be described in two parts:
Online application for the required type of visa.
Submission of supporting documents and providing biometric data (photo, fingerprints) at a visa application centre.
Let’s take a look at each part in more detail.
Online Application for the UK Visitor Visa
As part of the online application, you will be required to book an appointment at a visa application centre, you can check the locations available here.
You can complete the application in stages; however we advise that you prepare all of the required documentation first, and then complete the online form and upload everything you need in one go.
A standard UK visa currently costs £95.
It is important to note that the required documents will vary from person to person, however two documents are necessary for every applicant:
Your valid passport
The email confirmation of your exam (from the relevant Royal College or GMC)
You will then typically require the following:
If your trip is self-funded you will need:
Letter of Support from your financial guarantor (if applicable)
This is only required if your trip is financed by another person (i.e. family member).
Affidavit affirming the declaration of the financial sponsorship
This is done before a notary public and will have to be translated into English.
Letter of recommendation
Any letter of recommendations will need to come from senior colleagues at your current workplace.
Typically 6 months worth (either yours or your sponsor's if applicable).
A clear copy is needed with all information visible.
Income/Salary Certificate (Yours/Sponsors)
Evidence of Home Address
Deeds or Nationality Certificate or Home electricity bill where the address is written. This will need to be translated and notarised.
A ‘No Objection Letter’ issued by your employer
A ‘No Objection Letter’ for visa is a legal certificate issued by your employer agreeing for you to take off the days for you visit to the UK. In addition, the letter states that you have contractual obligations to return to your country of residence at your workplace.
Confirmation of your accommodation in the UK
Or, invitation letter from friends or family with whom you will be staying. You may also require a Council tax and utility bill of the accommodation address. If it’s a family that you’re staying with, you don’t need to worry about proving Sponsorship. If they are just providing accommodation (and your father or mother is your financial guarantor), a simple invitation letter stating your name, your passport number, duration and purpose of your stay is sufficient along with their contact details. The council tax and utility bill is just to prove that the address exists by their name.
Evidence of family members in your home country whilst you travel
These would include Passport copies or National ID copies of your family members.
To complete the online application, here are the required entries:
Your National ID number, if you have one
Travel information/plan: the date you will arrive in the UK and the date you will leave the UK. The arrival date is more important. The itinerary in your cover letter should explain this in more detail.
Choose business, including sports and entertainment as the main reason for your visit
After answering 'No's to organised group, travelling with partner, visiting a company or getting paid for business activities—choose Take the PLAB or OSCE
In Give details, write down your full itinerary, taken from your cover letter in full sentences
Personal information: Your home address
Parent details: Father’s and mother’s name, dates of birth
If you are employed and sponsoring yourself, then IMG recommend you arrange for two papers from your employer from the above list a) Salary Certificate b) No Objection Certificate
Your own bank account details with bank statements (for the last six months)
How much money are you planning to spend on your visit
Details of who is covering the costs, if you are not yourself
UK accommodation details
Travel histories in UK or other countries
Any details of visa refusals
Other histories regarding whether you have any criminal convictions
Any other relevant information you wish to provide, you can leave this blank
Finally comes the declaration page and it asks you to choose an appointment (date and time) with a visa application centre. Please note that you don’t have to choose immediately, especially if you don’t have all the supporting documents ready. Just save it there and a link will be sent to your email. But as above, IMG Connect recommends that you have all of the supporting documents prepared before starting your UK Visitor Visa application.
What costs can I expect in the UK?
Whilst your exam(s) will be taken across no more than two days, we advise for candidate to allow themselves a few days for climatisation and revision prior to the exam. When budgeting*, make sure that you book flights, hotels and UK transport to and from the airport in advance to save money.
Once in the UK, a typical low-cost budget for a comfortable stay will include approximately:
£40 - £60 per night for accommodation depending on your test venue
£15 - £25 for food per day
£20 for transport per day
£50 for Airport transfers (return journey)
*remember to consider flights & travel insurance costs in your total budget
Always remember to use price comparison websites or Airbnb to find the best value for money and shortest journey to amenities and test venues.
What happens if my visa application is refused?
You will receive a letter from the Home Office detailing the reasons for rejecting the application - don’t worry, you can apply again. If this happens to you, get in touch with your IMG Connect consultant who would be happy to help you re-apply.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch here, or using the buttons above (and below) to discuss doctor job options in the NHS, including discussions regarding a typical doctor salary in the UK and the most suitable hospital locations for you.
For advice, guidance and news and updates for IMGs, join the conversation through the links below:
FRCPath Part 1 Online
In response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Royal College of Pathologists has decided to migrate all part 1 FRCPath exams online. This includes FRCPath 1 in Histopathology, Haematology, Microbiology.
This means FRCPath Part 1 may be taken from the comfort of your own home. This development allows the College to continue to offer the FRCPath Part 1 exam to both UK trainees and overseas pathologists.
Please note that the delivery of FRCPath Part 2 remains offline, with examinations being conducted in person, but socially distanced.
FRCPath Part 1 Delivery
The format of the Part 1 exam is unchanged – 125 SBA (or multiple choice) and EMQs (extended matching questions) which aim to assess the candidate's overall knowledge and understanding of histo/ cytopathology, basic science underpinning pathology (including microbiology) and full understanding of autopsy practices undertaken in an NHS District General Hospital.
Previously, FRCPath Part 1 was available in multiple overseas centres, and it is anticipated that the College will return to this set-up once COVID-19 has been better managed globally.
The online exam will be held delivered through a company called TestReach. The College delivered the first sitting on this online format in Autumn 2020.
Candidates will have the opportunity to trial the examination software before the exam to familiarise themselves with it ahead of time. The TestReach system is full-proctored, and candidates will need to complete both an IT systems and environment check before the exam. These checks will ensure that candidates devices are suitable for the exam and that they are in an environment which satisfy exam conditions I.e. where they do not have access to textbooks or other revision materials.
For more information on the online examination see the College website here, or read their FAQs here.
How to apply
The application window for the Spring 2022 sitting of the FRCPath Part 1 exam will open at the end of November/ early December and close in mid-January. Whilst the examination date has yet to be finalised – candidates are advised to apply early and may withdraw their place for a refund if the examination date is unsuitable.
The cost of the exam is £673. For up-to-date information on exam and application dates, keep an eye on the College website here.
For more information on FRCPath in Histopathology, take a look at our collection of articles and blogs here, where we explore the full examination suite, including a detailed look at the structure and format, fees and preparation and resources.
If you are looking for general information that any overseas doctors might need to know - then check out our IMG Resources library.
We hope this is helpful for any overseas doctors preparing to sit their FRCPath Part 1 exam and the team here at IMG Connect wish you the best of luck!
Don’t forget to share your progress and successes with us using the hashtag #imgstories on social media, we love to hear from you.
Join the online histopathology community – connect with like-minded histopathologists and dedicated pathology recruiters in the IMG Histopathologists Facebook group.
For regular news and updates on the Royal College and all things histopathology, follow IMG Connect on social media using the links below: