Richard Hankins, the General Medical Council’s Head of Assessment, provides an update on the Medical Licensing Assessment (MLA) and answers some of the questions we’ve been asked by international medical graduates (IMG).

We’re changing the way we assess doctors who want to join the UK medical register. From 2023, if you want to register with us for a licence to practise in the UK, you’ll need to pass the MLA.

Planning for a career in medicine is a huge undertaking, especially if you’re looking to move to the UK from overseas. IMGs are critical to our health services and bring a host of skills and experiences that are vital in providing good healthcare.

This blog gives you some more information about our preparations for the MLA.

What is the MLA?

It will be a two-part assessment, an applied knowledge test (AKT) and a clinical and professional skills assessment (CPSA) that will, between them, replace the PLAB tests currently taken by IMGs. As well as IMGs, the MLA will also be taken by UK medical students.

We currently plan for the AKT to be a computer-based exam with multiple choice questions testing your ability to apply medical knowledge to different scenarios. It’ll run four times a year and you’ll be able to sit it at test centres around the world.

The CPSA will be a practical assessment of your clinical skills and professionalism. This will be very similar to the current PLAB 2 test and will be run in our new clinical assessment centre in Manchester, UK.

Why we’re introducing the MLA?

Doctors can only join the medical register, to work in the UK, once we are sure they are safe to practise and to treat patients.

The MLA will build on the work we already do, by setting a common threshold for safe practice for both IMGs and UK medical graduates.

What if I’m currently taking my PLAB exams?

You don’t need to worry if you’re midway through your PLAB exams when the MLA is introduced in 2023.

If you have already passed your PLAB 1 when the MLA is introduced, then that will still be recognised. Instead of taking PLAB 2 you will need to take the CPSA practical exam, held at our site in Manchester.

However, if you’ve already taken your PLAB 1 but didn’t pass, you’ll have to take both parts of the MLA with previous attempts at PLAB 1 counting toward your permitted four attempts for the AKT. This is the same for the PLAB 2 practical exam.

We’ve explained the transitional arrangements on our website to make sure your progress won’t be interrupted.

What’s happening now?

This month we’ve released new information about the topics and areas that the MLA will cover, and the range of professional knowledge, skills and behaviours expected of doctors entering the UK Foundation Programme.

It’s called the MLA content map and has been organised into six sections:

  • Areas of clinical practice
  • Areas of professional knowledge
  • Clinical and professional capabilities
  • Practical skills and procedures
  • Patient presentations
  • Conditions

These topics are drawn from a range of sources including:

  • Outcomes for graduates 2018), which sets out what newly qualified doctors from UK medical schools must know and be able to do.
  • Our Generic professional capabilities framework (2017), which details the capabilities needed for safe, effective and high-quality medical care in the UK.
  • The situations typically faced by doctors working in the UK Foundation Programme and relevant parts of the Foundation Programme curriculum.

We’re keen to hear your feedback on the content map, including how useful this document is and if there’s anything we can do to improve it.

How can I stay up to date?

We’ve refreshed the MLA section of our website to provide you with as much information as possible. These pages will be kept up to date with the latest developments, so make sure to check them regularly.

If you have any other questions about the MLA please email us at mla@gmc-uk.org.

Did you know the GMC provides free half day workshops specifically designed to help doctors new to working in the UK? Find out more about our Welcome to UK Practice workshops.