Working in the UK

Frequently asked questions about working in the UK.
If you can’t find the answer to your question here, please do feel free to visit our LinkedIn page and engage with different members of the AGMS.

How can I speed up my registration with the General Medical Council (GMC)?
Things happen quickly if you go there personally. You should take all documents and the required fee with you, though. Dealing with the GMC by mail or phone is an adventure that can take weeks (and many times you are still left without all documents).
You can apply online for registration and a license to practise. The GMC website takes you through all the necessary steps, starting here: http://www.gmc-uk.org/doctors/registration_applications/routeJ.asp

You will have to send copies of your documents by post and your application will not be processed until all documents have been received – you’ll have to bite the bullet and be patient.

Further information about the license to practice and revalidation can be found here:

I have been offered an interview/a job in XYZ-hospital. How can I find out more about the hospital and the job?
It is common practice in the UK to ring up the doctor holding your post at present. They will be able to describe in detail what to expect and can tell you about the ups and downs. Don’t hesitate to call them well before your interview. Ask them all the questions you might have. Most consultants encourage you to do so anyway because it’s considered your “homework” when preparing for a new job or an interview.

Is there a dress code in British hospitals?
Yes, there is! Don’t show up in German sandals. Don’t dress in white only – they might mistake you for a cricket player! Men should wear a smart shirt with short or rolled-up sleeves, but don’t wear a tie (deemed an infection risk). Wear decent trousers and clean leather shoes. Women can wear either a skirt or trousers, but again their outfit should not be too casual and they must wear short sleeves. Jeans are not appropriate. White coats (Kittel) are also not permitted.

What should my curriculum vitae (CV) look like?
Create your own layout. Don’t use a pre-printed form from the internet. There is no need for expensive folders for your application documents, as is common practice in Germany. Some hospitals even consider faxed applications. However, using a clear layout and clean paper will increase your chances. British CVs do not need a passport picture, so don’t include a photograph unless explicitly required (e.g. with some application forms).

British CVs also have a short paragraph about your “career aims”. This should consist of a few lines explaining why you are applying for this particular job. German applicants are used to writing this information in their covering letter, but in many cases this letter will not even be forwarded to the consultants on the interview panel.
Try to make your qualifications comparable to British qualifications. If necessary, explain the marks and scores you have achieved in exams. Give the British equivalent to the exam you passed (e.g. Abitur = A levels).

At the end of your CV there should be a section of “Referees”. These are physicians or other respected persons who are willing to provide information about you and your previous performance at work. It is not common to enclose written letters of reference “to whom it may concern” with your application. Instead, the referees listed in your CV will be contacted by phone, fax or letter once your appointment is considered. You should therefore only give referees who are able to speak English.

Sometimes not only a CV is required but also an application form that will be sent to you from the medical staffing department. Try to get the document by email or on disk and fill it in on your computer. It may not be enough to fill the sections of this form with “see CV”. Unfortunately, these forms are now common and take a considerable amount of time to complete.

Do I need to pass a language test when coming to the UK from Europe?
If you qualified within the European Union you don’t need to pass any test although it might improve your chances of getting the job you want. If you qualified outside the EU you will have to pass the Professional Language Assessment Board (PLAB) test to get full registration (no matter whether you are a native English speaker or your university taught in English, as is the case in Prague or Budapest). The IELTS or TOEFL test may be required, too.

I am a trained specialist with some years of experience in Germany. Can I work in the UK as a consultant?
In theory, yes. If you want to work as a consultant in the NHS, you will need to hold both full and specialist registration with a licence to practise. If you intend working outside the NHS, your prospective employer may also require you to be entered onto the Specialist Register.
You have to apply to the General Medical Council (GMC) for registration and a licence to practise. The GMC website gives you all the necessary information and takes you through the steps of an online application for nationals from the EEA who graduated at EEA or Swiss medical schools and are applying for specialist registration. It gives you details of the evidence of qualifications that you’ll need to supply. Start here and work through the 12 pages of guidance: http://www.gmc-uk.org/doctors/registration_applications/s3_p1.asp

Another essential address is the Royal College of your specialty. The colleges are responsible for training specialists in the UK and are well informed. You’ll find links to the royal colleges and faculties here: http://www.gmc-uk.org/doctors/revalidation/12401.asp

You might also find help from the British Medical Association (BMA): https://www.bma.org.uk/

There are certain specialties that don’t exist in the UK (e.g. trauma is an orthopaedic not a surgical subject) or are named differently and will therefore not be recognised (e.g. Dermatology in the UK vs Dermatology/Venereology on the Continent).

How do I find a job in the UK?
There are three main ways:

  • First, use the BMJ Careers section. Every week there are hundreds of open posts available that you could apply for. Note that the deadlines are relatively short, i.e. about two weeks.
  • Second, use a locum agency that will organise a job for you. You’ll find ads of locum agencies every week in the BMJ or on the internet. However, some locum agencies are trying to fill less attractive non-training posts with foreigners because these doctors don’t know what to expect. Be careful what you sign up for.
  • Third, apply directly to the hospital where you would like to work. Call the medical staffing department or the consultant. Sometimes posts can’t be filled because someone fails an exam or is off sick. You might be lucky and fill the gap before the job is advertised.

What does it mean if a job is not recognised for training?
Most junior doctors in the NHS are working in training posts to complete their specialist training. These jobs are approved for training by the postgraduate dean of that area, i.e. they have a regular teaching programme, study leave, funds for courses and conferences, and the European working time directive applies.
There are other jobs though, created by hospitals or trusts in order to provide a service (called “Trust Grade”, “Staff Grade”, etc.). Doctors in these posts usually don’t have study leave or funds for courses. They work only to treat patients and not to complete their training. In some circumstances these jobs can be quite attractive; some don’t require working nights or weekends, some are better paid, some are less competitive. For foreigners, they might be useful to get a foothold in the British system. However, recognition in their home country may be difficult. Make sure you know about the differences before accepting a job.

I would like to have a job in London. What do I have to do?
In general, it’s difficult to find a job in a London hospital straight away if you are coming from abroad. London has an excess of doctors due to its many medical schools and its popularity. However, doctors in smaller towns often find a job in London after some time. It might be advisable to start off somewhere else to get your foot in the door. Once you are established in the British system and have British referees, the way to London seems to be smoother. Don’t expect it to be easy, though!

Useful links

The following links may also be of interest: