revised December 1999
Doctors cannot carry out any clinical training involving the management of patients in the UK unless they are registered with the GMC. The GMC, by granting registration gives doctors the legal status necessary to carry out these professional duties. Enquiries about registration should be made to the GMC at least nine months in advance of coming to the UK. Delay will occur if forms are not filled in correctly and if the required documents are not enclosed. Photocopies of original documents are acceptable to accompany information to the GMC. The original degree certificate and the originals of any other documents requested by the GMC must be sent to the GMC office before registration can be granted. These documents can be sent after arriving in the UK if that is more convenient.
There are three kinds of registration: full, provisional and limited. The NACPME information sheets on registration provide further general guidance and are available from the British Council. Non-clinical posts and observerships do not require registration. A doctor who is in the UK to take the PLAB test may also undertake periods of observership.
It is important to point out that the British Council is unable to intervene with the GMC on matters of registration (unless the doctor has British Council sponsorship). Doctors should obtain detailed information on registration requirements from the GMC direct. The decision of the GMC is final.
The fact that a doctor has gained the right to entry to the UK does not override the legal requirement that any doctor practising in the UK must hold appropriate registration with the GMC. Likewise registration, or eligibility to apply for registration, does not of itself convey a right to entry to the UK.
Doctors who wish to practise in the Republic of Ireland must register with the Medical Council of Ireland which has its own procedures and conditions.
Doctors who hold a primary medical qualification recognised by the GMC for the purpose of full registration may apply for full registration. These are doctors who have obtained their primary medical qualification in the UK, in the EEA (provided they are also EEA nationals), or at selected medical schools in the following countries: Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, West Indies and Malaysia before 1990. Enquiries should be made to the GMC at the Registration Division.
EEA doctors are not obliged to take the PLAB test for registration purposes but they may be required by their prospective employer, as a condition of employment in the UK, to produce evidence of a satisfactory standard of English. Some employers ask doctors to take the 'International English Language Testing System' (IELTS) test or other approved English language proficiency test. EEA doctors not fulfilling all these conditions may be eligible for limited registration or may not be eligible for any.
Full registration allows doctors to undertake any kind of professional medical employment in the UK. However, overseas-qualified doctors (except EEA) should note that there will be work permit regulations to be met if the post is not a hospital training post. There are also additional regulations for entering general practice (see Training).
Overseas-qualified doctors who do not fulfil conditions for full registration should check with the GMC to find out whether their qualification is acceptable for limited registration. At least one year's acceptable pre-registration (internship) training is required and should be completed overseas preferably. Doctors must pass, or be exempt from, the PLAB test (see PLAB test).
Limited registration may be granted only for employment supervised by a fully registered medical practitioner in training posts in hospitals or other institutions, which have been educationally approved by a Royal College or Faculty (or in Scotland by one of the Regional Postgraduate Committees). It may be granted for a particular post, grade and/or speciality specified by the GMC. Doctors will be permitted to change or extend their employment within the range specified by the GMC. For changes outside the specified range doctors must resubmit their application to the GMC. Limited registration is granted for up to a total of five years of training (not necessarily five continuous years).
In certain circumstances limited registration may be granted for pre-registration house officer posts in the UK, but this is uncommon.
It may be possible to transfer from limited registration to full registration if a doctor has demonstrated the ability to practise satisfactorily as a Senior House Officer (SHO) in the UK and/or has made progress towards a registerable higher qualification. A doctor may also be able to transfer to full registration if he or she has 're-qualified', i.e. has taken a University or alternative primary medical qualification in Britain administered by the United Examining Board. Further information on alternative primary medical qualifications are available in the NACPME information sheet Alternative Primary Medical Qualifications.
Temporary full registration may be granted to highly qualified specialists from overseas who would normally fall into the limited registration category. This type of registration is usually available for those working at Visiting Professor level who wish to come to the UK for a short period for a specific purpose, including imparting to knowledge or expertise.
This is given to UK doctors who hold qualifications recognised by the GMC for full registration and who are undertaking their pre-registration (internship) year in the UK. After successful completion of their pre-registration year these doctors may convert to full registration. For EEA nationals who have qualified in an EEA member state this type of registration is known as 'pre-registration limited registration' (see Training).
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