Training to be a physician in the UK is a somewhat different process than in the United States. Through assessments and the ever-changing certification process, physicians are reaching new levels of standardization in medicine. CPD in the UK is required for revalidation and is a large part of meeting these new standards.

In this post, we’ll discuss these different processes and how NEJM Knowledge+ can help UK physicians review for and maintain certification.

Medical Education in the UK

Unlike medical training in the US, where students earn a medical degree as an undergraduate, students in the UK work toward a single university degree rather than both a Bachelor’s and then an MD. British medical degrees may take between four and six years to earn.

Once this degree is obtained, all aspiring doctors in the UK must complete a two-year standardized course called the Foundation Programme, which is similar to residency in the United States and bridges the gap between medical school and independent practice. The Programme is funded and governed publicly by Health Education England (HEE) and the four UK Health Departments. After completion of this curriculum, doctors may choose to specialize in a certain area of medicine or become general practitioners and training will vary in length depending on the specialty. All fields, however, include additional examinations and assessments in order to qualify as a registered doctor.

Recently, the General Medical Council (GMC) approved the Internal Medicine (IM) stage 1 curriculum. Starting in August 2019, the 3-year-long IM stage 1 curriculum will replace current core medical training (CMT). It will incorporate the new Shape of Training recommendations, shifting towards a more broad-based training program.

The UK Certification Process: Constantly Developing

Medical students in the UK will soon be taking a new exam. The GMC is working hard to develop their Medical License Assessment (MLA). Starting in 2022, the MLA will ensure doctors meet the GMC’s standards, regardless of where they received their medical degree. The Medical License Assessment will have two portions: an applied knowledge test and an assessment of clinical skills. The GMC is working with medical schools to ensure that students will have a similar workload in preparing for the MLA as they do currently for the PLAB exam.

The MLA will be one of many steps in the process of evolving the medical community to meet current and future needs. Implementing the MLA on a large scale doesn’t come without its challenges. Due to Britain leaving the European Union, there is currently no legal way to assess medical graduates from the European Economic Area (EEA) and have all doctors go through a standardized assessment. The GMC is waiting for further negotiations before they decide how to approach this step. The GMC is constantly striving towards ensuring that all doctors are trained to practice medicine safely and responsibly from entry into their chosen field.

UK Certification Process: The CCT

In the UK, most physicians and medical professionals practice within the National Healthcare System (NHS), so medical assessments and certification processes are more widespread and uniform than in the US. To practice as a consultant (the British equivalent to a specialist) in the NHS, it is a legal requirement to hold registration with a license to practice. Physicians become eligible for entry onto the Specialist Register after completing the Foundation Programme and earning a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT).

Since 2010, awarding CCTs to doctors has fallen under the jurisdiction of the GMC. The GMC supervises and approves certain training programs that hospital doctors may complete in order to obtain a CCT in their field of choice: 65 specialties are available.

CPD in the UK

CPD programs enable physicians to stay up to date and continually improve in their field. Physicians must seek out programs and other forms of CPD and tailor them to their practice. There is an annual cycle of appraisal and review which will be conducted by a GP’s organization. This will take into account their performance in their practice as well as their CPD portfolio.

When organizing a CPD portfolio, it is important to keep track of learning activities and the number of hours per activity (1 CPD hour is usually 1 CPD point or credit). These activities can include meetings, local events, teaching and personal research (reading the latest medical journal). If GP’s are able to show that the information they learned over one 1 CPD hour has a direct impact on their practice (e.g., implementing the knowledge in a case study), they can double the number. Each GP should earn a minimum of 50 CPD credits in a year, with at least 250 credits over the course of five years towards revalidation. The GMC has a great deal of supporting information for CPD in the UK.

How NEJM Knowledge+ Can Help With the PLAB, MLA, and Other UK Licensing Exams

NEJM Knowledge+ offers an online adaptive learning platform that can help candidates not only prepare for the PLAB exam and CCT, but also participate in Continuing Professional Development to earn CPD hours. Given the breadth of obtaining a CCT, the NEJM Knowledge+ Family Medicine Board Review program would likely be a good fit for preparation, but our other products, including Internal Medicine Board Review and Pediatrics Board Review, offer other opportunities for CPD in the UK.

We advise candidates, in any country, to include several tools and resources in their exam study plans and CPD learning programs to ensure a comprehensive knowledge base that covers all the possibilities. After all, even exam blueprints don’t tell you exactly what’s on the exam. UK candidates can use NEJM Knowledge+ to prepare for initial registration and medical licensing as well as ongoing annual renewal of registration, and they can be confident that they are getting what they need for successful certification and maintenance of certification.

More from the Learning+ blog on medical education, certification, and licensing in countries around the world: