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Opportunities for clinical training in the UK

NEWS - the British Council Client Funded Training Scheme is being replaced by a new scheme called the British Council Postgraduate Medical Education (PGME) Sponsorship Scheme for details click here


The United Kingdom has a long tradition of providing clinical medical training for doctors from other countries. British doctors have a particularly strong reputation for:

  • bedside teaching, focusing on history and clinical examination skills
  • clinical research.

The medical profession in the UK has paid particular attention to achieving a balance between new diagnostic technology and the traditional diagnostic skills.

There are major opportunities for overseas medical graduates to complement their training at home with UK training in clinical medicine and research. Mention can be made of the following broad areas:

  • basic specialist training leading to fellowship or membership of the appropriate Royal College
  • higher specialist training in subspecialty areas
  • learning of specific skills such as new diagnostic techniques or operative procedures
  • training in clinical research for which the NHS offers particularly suitable resources.

There are thousands of overseas doctors training in and contributing to the UK National Health Service (NHS). There are many and varied opportunities available in NHS hospitals, clinical academic departments and primary care. Good access to the training available crucially depends on the provision of high-quality professional advice.

British Council services for postgraduate medical training in the UK

The British Council has fifty years' experience of managing training in the UK for the government and other clients including international agencies, overseas governments and private employers.

Our objectives are:

  • to ensure that trainees coming to the UK have the best possible training experience to meet their needs
  • to provide services which enable more postgraduates to come to the UK, by assisting with registration and training placement.

The British Council can provide the following services, which are crucial to successful clinical training in the UK:

These services can be provided in the context of an overall training management package provided by our Development Services (DEVS), or as a stand-alone service for clients who wish the professional service only. Naturally the management charge is considerably lower for the more limited professional service.

Training for primary care

The full UK training programme for work in general practice takes three years, consisting of two years in appropriate hospital posts and one year in a recognized general practice training post. Clinical training in primary care can be arranged in the UK. Of particular interest are the reform of primary care, contractual arrangements, referral systems, fundholding and use of support staff.

Specialist training in the UK

Doctors intending a specialist career apply for training posts in competition and progress through the training grades at two levels:

  • Basic Specialist Training: Senior House Officer - 2 to 4 years
  • Higher Specialist Training: Specialist Registrar - 4 to 6 years.

During this time they prepare for and sit professional examinations set by independent bodies, the medical Royal Colleges which have a responsibility recognised by the government for ensuring the quality of specialist practice.

The Royal Colleges, of which there are thirteen in the UK, inspect hospital training posts to ensure quality, conduct examinations, run training courses and meetings and engage in research.

Training opportunities in specialities

There are many training opportunities in paid and unpaid posts available to overseas doctors, with clinical responsibility for those who achieve registration with the GMC.

Doctors wishing to avail themselves of these opportunities must be aware that there is a great deal of competition and that they will benefit more from a period in the UK if they have already obtained good experience in their chosen specialty before visiting.

Salaried posts

There are more registrar posts than are required to fill consultant vacancies. For this reason, and in order to achieve a balance in the training process, a proportion of registrar posts have been designated for visiting registrars only. These posts cannot be filled by doctors from the UK and other European Economic Area countries.

Visiting registrar posts are available either through open competition or through a number of Overseas Doctors Training Schemes (ODTS) run by the relevant Royal Colleges. ODTS posts have the advantage that:

  • they are salaried
  • registration with the GMC is arranged by the College
  • they can be arranged before arrival in the UK.

The disadvantages are:

  • the training available is subject to the service requirements of the post
  • most ODTS schemes are over-subscribed and have long waiting lists
  • advertised posts are much sought after and a recommendation based on previous work in the UK is usually required
  • little time is available to adapt to the new circumstances of work in the NHS.



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