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Applying for the United Kingdom Foundation Programme (UKFP) as an IMG



Hello everyone! I am Lydia, an international medical graduate from Malaysia. I applied for UKFP 2022 and am currently working as an FY1 doctor in the UK. I was also offered an academic foundation doctor post (or specialised foundation programme), which means the deanery sponsors a postgraduate certificate that I will be starting in September 2022 alongside my job.


In this blog, I will ease your doubts about what the UKFP is all about, why it’s beneficial to apply for the UKFP, a brief description of the application process, as well as all the exams one needs to take for the UKFP.


What is UKFP


UKFP stands for the United Kingdom Foundation Programme, and the UKFPO is the United Kingdom Foundation Programme Office, the organisation that processes all applications. The UKFP is a 2-year internship or work-based training programme for fresh medical graduates without prior internship or work experience.


It is a national training programme that UK graduates undergo before moving on to other specialties. Throughout the two years, foundation doctors will rotate through different specialties every 4 months, and every doctor will be allocated an educational supervisor who oversees your development as a doctor.


Why UKFP


Long time ago, UKFP prioritised UK graduates over IMGs, which deterred many IMGs from applying as chances of being offered a post were slim. However, since late 2019, the UK government has listed all medical specialties in the Shortage Occupation List, making UKFP very accessible to IMGs. In other words, you are of the same standing as a UK graduate.


I applied for the UKFP as it has a standard and organised application process, and if I meet all the criteria, I would essentially be guaranteed a job without the need to search for jobs myself, nor was there a need to attend interviews. Moreover, there are many different programmes offered within the UKFP. Some programmes offer free accommodation, some offer leadership opportunities, some are medical tech-related, and as for the one I was offered, I am sponsored to complete a Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) in Health Professions Education.


Application Process


The application process is lengthy and starts one year before the programme itself starts. For example, I applied for UKFP 2022 in July 2021 and started to work in August 2022. For IMGs, we do need to apply through the eligibility office, and eligibility applications open in July the year before. Once found eligible, you will apply for the foundation programme together with all other UK graduates in September the year before.


One thing to note is that you do not need to have passed PLAB when you’re applying for the UKFP. At the time you submit the eligibility application, all you need is Proof of ID, Dean’s Statement (available on the UKFP website), Medical Degree, and proof of English Language Proficiency (IELTS/OET).


Exams Required


Applicants who apply for the UKFP need to sit for multiple exams, which include an English Test (IELTS/OET), the Situational Judgment Test (SJT), the PLAB exams, and for certain graduates, the National Clinical Assessment (NCA).


English Test (IELTS/OET)


Most IMGs will need this test, however, for graduates whose medical school uses English and have at least 75% of patient interactions in English, the English test is exempted if your dean can confirm this on the dean statement. This is the only exam that you would need to have obtained required scores by the time you submit your UKFP eligibility application.


The English requirement for UKFP is slightly higher than GMC’s requirement for PLAB. To apply for the UKFP, one needs to score a Band 7.5 in all domains of IELTS, or a score of 400 in all domains of OET. Your English test scores should also be valid on the date you start FY1. For example, for UKFP 2022, in which the job starts in August 2022, IELTS should not be taken before August 2020.


For me, I took the IELTS and managed to score at least 7.5 in all domains after 3 weeks of intense preparations. I also booked two tests one week apart, so I have an increased chance of getting the score I needed. Do note that if you do not have the required scores, you will not be able to submit an eligibility application and hence, will not be able to apply for the foundation programme of that year.


Situational Judgment Test (SJT)


The SJT is a non-clinical exam that tests applicants mainly on ethics and life on the wards as a UK doctor. You will encounter various scenarios in which you must choose the correct response or reaction. It has 3 sections: the rating section, the multiple-choice section, and the ranking section.


This test may seem daunting to most IMGs, but it is definitely something you can prepare for. There is no pass/fail mark, though if you scored really low, you may be invited for an interview to assess your competency to practice as a doctor. That being said, the higher you score, the higher your chance of getting into a programme of your choice. However, even if you scored below average, you will still ultimately be offered a job, albeit at a less desirable geographical location.


The key to preparing for this exam is to start early. There are many resources online, but your main resource should be the practice papers from the UKFP website. I prepared for this exam 1-2 months prior (whilst preparing for PLAB), and managed to score 43/50, which got me the programme of my choice.


PLAB


Many do not know this but let me let you in on an insider’s trick. If you’re a UKFP applicant and have been deemed eligible during the eligibility application, UKFP liaises with GMC so that you will be granted priority to PLAB 1 & 2 seats. That was how I got my PLAB 1 seat in November 2021 and PLAB 2 seat in May 2022. I didn’t need to worry about securing a PLAB seat when bookings opened. However, GMC usually only grants us seats 2-3 months before the exam, which can be stressful because you are only allowed one chance to sit for the exam.


Now what I mean by this is that the UKFP has very strict timelines. For my year, the latest date to sit for PLAB 1 was 4th November 2021, and the latest date to sit for PLAB 2 was 31st May 2023. Therefore, if I had failed either PLAB 1 or PLAB 2, my job offer would have been withdrawn, and I would need to wait another year if I still wanted to apply for UKFP. Another thing to note is PLAB will be replaced by UKMLA in 2024.


National Clinical Assessment (NCA)


This is an OSCE-style exam similar to PLAB 2 that is for those who graduated >2 years before the scheduled start date. For example, if you’re applying for UKFP 2022, where you’re expected to start working on 4th August 2022, you would need to sit for this exam if you graduated before 4th August 2020. The exam is only held once a year in October/November, and you can only book the exam through invitation - being deemed eligible by UKFPO. The fees are around 880 pounds as well.


Last Words


In conclusion, the UKFP is a programme that I would recommend fresh graduates to consider as it is one of the most straightforward and quick ways of getting into the UK. You do not need to be on the search of jobs nor do you need to sit for interviews, which can be daunting to some. Moreover, you start at the same level as UK fresh graduates and there is ample support throughout your training. It is also a good way to build up your portfolio for specialty applications because as a doctor in training, you have access to more resources and support.


For further information, I urge you to read the guidance on UKFPO’s official website, and come interact with me on Trewlink’s platform where I will try my best to answer further questions! You can register via this link https://trewlink.com?referrer=lyd961135 and follow my profile

Lydia Chang. All the best and good luck!


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