Blogs > News Archive / NHS Recruitment Process

Coronavirus, COVID19 and NHS Recruitment

  • March 22, 2020

It is important to note that the current situation around COVID19 is entirely changeable so please keep checking the most recent guidance from the World Health Organisation for important updates.

During these unprecedented times, we want to help in any way that we can, so we hope that this guide will give you some information about the additional considerations of an international move or hiring an international doctor. As always, we will look at the issues as well as the solutions and try to give a realistic expectation of what to expect. The following are the headings we will consider (please contact us if you think we should add others):

  1. International Travel Guidance
  2. The GMC and International Medical Councils
  3. Attendance of PLAB / Royal College / English Language Tests
  4. Delays for HR and Management
  5. International Travel Guidance

First and foremost, the latest UK guidance on international travel can be found here: - this is the overarching guidance on international travel from the UK government in relation to COVID19 outbreak - this links to the specific country by country guidance so that you can check on current guidance for your own country

The UK, like most countries, are advising against international travel for all but essential journeys – currently this advice applies for 30 days from the 17th March. In practice, the UK’s largest airport, Heathrow, is still operating flights and their advice is that many airlines are rescheduling, consolidating and cancelling flights so check with your airline directly before attempting to travel. If you are due to travel imminently then you will need to consider your own circumstances and discuss with the HR department / recruitment team to decide if travel is appropriate.

Whilst it is not the case in the UK at the time of writing, the travel restrictions in Italy may give us a sign of things to come. Currently, the borders are effectively closed in Italy with only a limited number of flights entering the country, most airports closing and an obligatory 14 day self-isolation for anyone arriving from abroad. Most countries have kept travel options available with limited air travel services still running from key airports and many have specifically advised that ‘key-workers’ should still be able to travel. If the UK do enter in to any border closures, we hope that they will still allow entry for ‘key-workers’ and that some airlines will still operate flights so that our doctors can make travel arrangements if they still wish to.

All current travel guidance is temporary so, if you have accepted a role, there may well be other parts of your pre-employment checks and visa applications that can be done in the intervening period. We strongly recommend completing everything that you can so that, once the time comes, you will be ready to travel straight away.

  1. The GMC and International Medical Councils

Once again, the most up to date guidance from the GMC can be found here: - this links contains the full guidance on what to expect from the GMC at the moment – this will link you to the relevant International Medical Councils so that you can check guidance for your own country

The GMC have made some incredibly encouraging steps in ensuring that doctors in the UK can continue to practice effectively and also in assisting anyone who is able to join the register, to do so as soon as possible. For anyone worried about whether or not the UK still need international doctors, the GMC’s actions in recent days show a clear statement of intent that you are needed more than ever. Here is a summary of the recent updates and we will be posting a full guide in the coming days:

  • ID checks have been postponed until social distancing measures have been lifted and licences granted without the need to attend
  • Revalidation has been deferred for a year for doctors currently on the register to allow doctors to prioritise clinical care
  • Temporary registration available to those who have recently left the register
  • Upcoming rotations and medical exams have been postponed to assist over 20,000 trainees who would otherwise be adjusting to a new workplace during this difficult time
  • There is also speculation that final year medical students will be fast tracked into the workplace to help

Our advice if you are approaching the completion of your registration, is to contact the GMC about your individual circumstances and any queries that you have. They are currently dealing with thousands of enquiries however they are being incredibly accommodating to doctors that are keen to join the register so you are likely to be offered the assistance you need to get on to the register if you are suitably qualified.

  1. Attendance of PLAB / Royal College / English Language Tests

The guidance from some of the Royal Colleges is linked below, check with your examining board website for others:








Guidance from the GMC on the PLAB examinations is linked below:


Guidance on IELTS and OET tests can be found below:



As most will fully appreciate, the priority for doctors around the world at the moment is to focus on clinical commitments and, considering social distancing measures, it hardly seems surprising that most examinations are being postponed until later in the year. Whilst this may be frustrating for those of you that had been preparing hard for upcoming sittings, don’t be too disappointed and use this time to further gain experience and learning which can only help you in passing your rescheduled sittings when they come along. For those of you that have completed your examinations, you’ll be pleased to hear that the GMC are inviting IMGs on to the register without the need to attend ID check until social distancing measures are lifted.

Updates on EPIC / ECFMG verification can be found below and, whilst there may be delays, we hope that this aspect should be relatively unaffected:


  1. Delays for HR and Management

Each hospital in the UK will adopt it’s own policy on the supporting functions and their role during this time. Keep in mind that HR departments may be working hard to clear workers who can join the workforce immediately or those returning to practice as per the GMC recent initiative. With this in mind, they will be under intense pressure to prioritise as best they can and this may cause delays in the usual aspects of recruitment (booking interviews, issuing offer letters, confirming salaries, issuing certificates of sponsorship etc).

The general feedback from the hospitals that we work with over the last couple of weeks has been that they are still trying to continue ‘business-as-usual’ for the time being however they are also contingency planning and preparing for the potential influx of COVID19 patients. Managers are generally focussed on efficiency in patient flow in order to free up beds and workforce planning to ensure that there will be enough staff in the event of escalated events.

All that said, each and every person that we speak with tell us that they continue to value the contribution of IMGs and international recruitment is still a huge part of the NHS agenda. Most emergency departments, cancer services and urgent surgeries have been advised that they still need to function as normal throughout so they are still very actively recruiting. Equally, ICU, acute medicine, microbiology and respiratory departments are in more demand than ever for obvious reasons. Doctors are being re-deployed from some areas of planned care however we have had interview requests in every speciality over the last week and placements are still going ahead.

Our message here is that delays can be expected in the recruitment process however the NHS need staff more than ever so most clinicians, managers and HR departments still want to hear from you. Equally, you will get all of the support you need in order to make your relocation to the UK happen as quickly and efficiently as possible, given the current circumstances.

We want to hear from you and will be happy to answer any questions that you have regarding all aspects of relocation, now and always, so please send us your comments as well as supporting one another in the IMG community.


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