Postgraduate medical degrees and training in UK
Dr Nagi Giumma Barakat
Many postgraduate students have contacted me asking me to help them coming to the UK and to get trained in their speciality. There are many different ways to get your higher degrees in your chosen speciality in UK as well as complete your training. It is very important for anyone who is applying to study in UK or intending to come to UK, my first (advice is to do English courses and improve your English as it is very important to have good spoken, understanding and grammatically correct written English language skills).
Some of the questions commonly asked are shown below and I will try to answer the most frequently asked ones:
1- What postgraduate medical degrees are offered in UK?
2- Which one will allow you to be exempt from PLAB?
3- What do you need to do for each of them?
4- Where should you apply?
5- What should you do before applying for studying in UK?
6- Who is eligible for training in UK?
7- Are there any other ways you can join UK training programs?
The answers to these questions
To answer all these questions, please read the following short document and if you have any further questions, please e-mail me on email@example.com or visit www.nagibarakat.com. There are few post graduate medical degrees in UK which enable you to take part in them. Some of them allowed you to work in UK and others just a certificate. Before applying to take part in any of the exams or postgraduate medical exams and training, you should contact the General Medical Council in UK on (http://www.gmc-uk.org/about/contactus/contact_2.asp).
After they validate your certificate and advise you which area you are eligible to apply to, then you chose which degree you want to apply to and contact the providers directly.
1- Membership of Royal colleges certificates. They are many and each speciality has got one and you just need to contact them directly. After your registration and look for centres for the exams including Libya as some are done in Libya ( MRCPCH Part 1 paediatrics, MRCP part 1 medicine, MRCS part 1 surgery, MRC ophth. part1,2,and 3). After you have registered and paid the fees, leave at least 4 -6 months to prepare for the exams. If it is in UK, you need to apply for visa and check with UK embassy before paying any fees for the exam. Most of them can refund you but read their policies as well for refund. After you have done all of these, you start planning to read. You need one text book (normally ask 3-5 people who pass the exam and which text book/s they use as a reference or read from it), to read as many MCQs as possible and preferably with 2 other people so you can learn from each other and guide each other and exchange material. It does not matter if you repeat the book 3-4 times. Also look for the colleges publication as some of them have published materials to help candidates preparing for the exam. After you finish your first or second reading, look for a course with MOCK exams and there are many in UK or nearer to you. The courses are very good guidance for you and will tell you which areas you are weak in and you have time to improve in that area. The best place to look for these courses is the internet via Google or on the BMJ, RSM and pastest websites. The MCQs books are also available on the internet and the best ones are amazon, pastest, RSM or do a Google search.
2- After passing membership part one which usually consists of two papers, you can prepare to take part 2 which has two elements, one written and one clinical. You cannot do the clinical unless you pass all the written parts. You can do exactly the same for part one by approaching the relevant college and they will tell you where is the nearest centre and apply. Some colleges have a part 3 and these are usually the surgical subspecialties. Many candidates can pass these exams specially the written one, especially if you have done clinical work in your country for over 2-3 years as SHO or Registrar. The clinical part is the most difficult one and it is divided into a talking station which includes communication skills, taking history which many overseas candidates find difficult to pass as well as handling patients in other clinical stations. To overcome this problem, you need to attend a course/s in UK or nearer to you. As these courses will mimic the exams and you will be taught a lot and get guidance on how to perform in the exam. All these courses you can find them on BMJ, RSM, pastest websites plus the search engine Google.
3- The membership of Royal colleges exams are expensive as well as the courses and when you pass all parts, you can be exempted from the PLAB and you can apply for training posts in UK or posts for services like staff grades or associated specialist and many SHO and registrar posts not for training. In UK, when you pass these exams, it is an entry to training in your subspecialty. Other countries have different exams and usually it is an exit exam from training. Before getting limited or full GMC registration, you have to have IELTs certificate with score 7 across all the domains. You can apply for training posts starting from foundation year 1 or 2. After that you need to apply for speciality training which is called ST1-8 and it is across UK and each deanery has their own regulation and they have interviews which are also very hard and the selection criteria are getting even more difficult for overseas doctors to get through. This is not always true and many candidates go through very easily.
4- If you get a full membership of your speciality and you want to get training in a fully paid post in UK, there are overseas training schemes and each college has one and you can apply through them and if you are successful, they will arrange two years subspecialty training, one year as SHO and one year as Registrar and after that you have to leave the country. Places are limited and you can only apply from outside UK and anyone in UK will not be accepted. Usually the colleges have bodies who deal with them for each country accepted on this scheme. Libya is one of those countries. You can ask the colleges about this and which country is a member and who is their representative and make contact with him or her. Most of the time this is kept secret and only their favourite candidates will be included in this program.
5- PhD (philosophe Doctorate). This is mainly an academic degree and needs funding and it is very difficult to get what you want if you are from overseas and only few people take that route. If your government sponsors you for a particular speciality, go for it. It is mainly research-based and if there is patient contact involved, you need to get GMC registration and you need to pass the PLAB and score 7 in IELTS exams. If it is only animal-based or other with no patient contact, you need to contact GMC for that. It is usually for a 3-5 year period and you need to write your thesis by yourself with the help of your supervisor. The salaries are low, it’s hard work and it’s good for anyone who choses academia as his /her future job. If you get your PhD, you are exempted from PLAB and by this time you should have good English. If you want to apply for a training post or non-training post, you should do the same as in point 4.
6- The masters degrees. There are many of them and each speciality has many. Many universities offer them and it usually involves no patient contact whatsoever and is mainly knowledge-based and you learn how to write thesis, search for material and you will gain a lot of knowledge in the subject you choose. It is usually done part time or full time and costs up to £35,000 per year excluding living allowances. Most of them are done over one year but people coming from overseas need 18-24 months as their English language is not good and they will spend the first 6-9 months learning English. This is good so they can do IELTs and also study to do part 1 membership for their speciality. Many people can do that. It is good for speciality of basic sciences like microbiology, pharmacology etc… The master degree will not allow you to work in UK or apply for GMC registration or get a training position. It is a certificate which empowers you with knowledge and prepares you for the next step which is PhD or membership. I think it is a waste of time for people who want to get some training after spending 7 years in medical schools. Most UK trainees do masters while they are in training and already have their memberships. If you choose to go in that direction, you should clear part 1 membership, English exams and start preparing for part 2 memberships. Other countries are the same and master degree is only certificate and most countries will not allow you to get licence to practice with this certificate. Check with each country regulation for practicing.
7- Diplomas, they are many and usually involve taking written exams and a clinical test. You cannot do clinical unless you pass the written. The pass rate is high and up to 80% and it is medical schools knowledge plus 1-2 years’ experience in your chosen speciality. It is usually done by General practitioners and rarely by others. Many candidates who failed their college clinical exams many times, they will take it as well to support them morally and also if they go back home, they have a certificate in their folders which will improve their status back home. It has not much value in UK. It will not exempt you from PLABs, you will not gain GMC registration nor get training post, if you pass Diplomas exams. Other countries are the same and master degree is only certificate and most countries will not allow you to get licence to practice with this certificate. Check with each country regulation for practicing.
8- Certificates, they are many and usually can be done as part time or full time and usually between 3-6 months. It is based on modules and you need to produce a thesis at the end. It is equal to a master’s degree and it is usually for non-clinical staff. Like medical education, management, leadership and so on. You will not gain GMC registration or training post or exemption from PLAB.
There are other way which many countries do this e.g. from the middle east and Southeast Asia? The government (especially ministry of higher education +/- minister of health) will make an agreement with UK training boards or directly with colleges and deaneries. This is also can be done in other countries. This agreement can guarantee certain places of training for different specialities for 2 years in UK. The government should pay annual fees toward this which can be up to £50-100,000 per 12months plus accommodation and salary for the candidates. The hospital where the candidate gets trained will not be paid a salary unless he/she had done work out of hours, ie. he/she did nights and weekends on call plus bank holidays. He/she will be paid for this work. He/she will have access to a full training post and will be equally treated like any UK trainee and will be issued a certificate towards the end of two years. The candidates must have high postgraduate training degree (full Libyan board, full Arabic board, full membership certificate, PhD). All they need to have passed is the English exam with score 7(IELTS). It is usually offered to excellent candidates or high flyers and only for two years and after that they have to leave the country and may apply for other posts from abroad. Many Middle East countries use this scheme with UK, USA, Canadian and others. It is a very good scheme and will encourage candidates to work hard and pass their exams in Libya and also most candidates have got good training in the speciality they chose. When they go abroad, they will be exposed to more advanced techniques, improve their communication skills and also be involved in the teaching of others.
The best way to improve medical training and education in Libya is to encourage and support local programs and spend money on them. Get the Libyan experts from inside and outside Libya to lead on this as most of them have good connections abroad. Support from recognised bodies from English speaking countries is very important and some Libyan doctors based abroad have skills and experience in training. Non-English speaking countries also have excellent training programs and many Libyan doctors also live and work there and contacting them and including them to supervise the programs is very important. Inviting Libyan doctors from abroad to be part of any training program is very valuable. You have to bear in mind that not every Libyan doctor abroad is a trainer and the majority of them are good as clinicians but not as trainers. Selection should be done and incentives have to be paid and over years many will settle in Libya.
I hope these few lines will help trainees who are intending to pursue their career and get higher degrees from UK. I am happy to help and answer any question regarding training and find out more.
Dr Nagi Giumma Barakat(MBBCh, MRCPCH, MSC epilepsy, CCST, FRCP, CASLAT (Med. Edu.), PET
Consultant paediatrician/ Neurology
Ex-minister of Health-NTC-Libya