The language requirements were imposed by the General Medical Council (GMC) in 2014. Passing IELTS to a level of 7.5 is now the only straightforward route to gain a license to practice. Not only will you struggle to progress your application further without this qualification but of course it is also necessary to be fluent in the language of the nation in which you practice – for patients’ safety and for the security of your own career.
UK is a multinational country, and in some regions in particular you need to understand that on many occasions you might consult patients whose proficiency in English is weak or indeed they may speak no English at all. It is particularly important that barriers to communication are minimised for the efficiency of the GP consultation when on average 10 minutes is allowed for each appointment.
The GMC will not grant you a licence to practice if proof of a high level of understanding of English is missing – and you cannot practice in the UK without this licence.
The Common European Framework of Language (CEFR) provides some level of equating different language qualifications – however it is not a precise one.
There have been cases when C1 proficiency level has not been accepted by the GMC as a sufficient proof – therefore we can only recommend to sit IELTS, which as stated is the only guaranteed path to take.
It is still worth checking with the GMC would they consider Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE), as an alternative qualification if you hold this certificate, as it is regarded as the most advanced qualification of Cambridge English. However at the next stage of the process, the required IELTS score would still be asked from GPs applying for National Medical Performers List (NMPL) inclusion – and without this inclusion, you will not be able to practice as a GP even if the GMC have granted you a licence to practice.
- Do not chose random English courses – only those who prepare you specifically for IELTS
- Make sure that your teacher is qualified and experienced in IELTS preparation
- Consider the timing: the test is held on certain dates and you have to register for the test in advance. Make sure that you know your test date and arrange courses accordingly so that you do not encounter a wait between the end of your preparation and the test
- Look on line for numerous hints and tips from those who have passed IELTS already
- Check as many samples of questions from different sources as you can
On 9 October 2013, Members of the European Parliament voted to agree new rules governing the movement of healthcare professionals across Europe. The revised EU Directive on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC) sets out the legislative rules and procedures that apply when professionals want to practise in an EU country other than the one in which they qualified. The General Medical Council and the Department of Health (DH) have both consulted on the language proficiency of EEA (European Economic Area) doctors.
The following changes have come into effect to make sure all doctors have the necessary knowledge of English to practise safely in the UK:On Tuesday 29 April 2014, a new category of fitness to practise impairment ‘not having the necessary knowledge of English’ was introduced. The GMC have updated their Good Medical Practiceto include a specific duty that ‘doctors must have the necessary knowledge of the English language to provide a good standard to practice and care in the UK’.
On Wednesday 18 June 2014 the General Medical Council raised their requirements for the minimum scores that doctors must obtain in the International English Language Testing System test. From this date onwards they must achieve an overall score of 7.5 (up from 7.0).
On Wednesday 25 June 2014 changes to the Medical Act (1983) came into effect. The GMC is now able to refuse to grant a licence to a European doctor who cannot demonstrate they have the necessary knowledge of English. The GMC also now has the power to require European doctors to undergo a language assessment if this is needed to make a decision about their fitness to practise.