Career progression for doctors in the NHS

As one of the largest employers in the world, the NHS employs a wide range of clinical staff, as well as non-clinical and support staff. The service prioritises personal and professional development, and offers unparalleled career progression opportunities. This blog outlines the career progression for doctors working in the service, from Junior Doctors to Consultants.

Career progression as a Junior Doctor

Junior doctors are qualified doctors, who have completed foundation year training and up to 9 years of experience as a hospital doctor. After your foundation years, you will be asked to choose which specialty training you would like to embark on in later years. During your foundation years, you will undergo six placements in different specialties and environments to give you experience in a range of specialties before you begin specialty training.

Specialty training can take from 3-10 years, depending on the specialty you choose – for example, GP training is three years, and paediatric training can be more than ten years. Some specialties training is ‘run-through’ – where you only have to apply once, at the beginning of the training, and then remain in the same organisation for the training duration, or ‘un-coupled’ training – core training followed by entry into higher specialty training. Entry into some specialties can be very competitive – you can view competition ratios for each specialty here.

During your training, you will sit exams for membership for your specialties Royal College – e.g., if you are training to be a Psychiatrist, you will sit the MRCPsych exam. Different specialties will require different exams and levels of experience for progression – you can find a guide to specialty training in each medical specialty here.

Once you have completed specialty training for your chosen medical specialty, you will become a Consultant and you will gain the Certificate of Completion of Training, allowing you entry onto the GMC specialist register, or the GP register.

Career progression as a Specialist, Specialty and Consultant Doctor

Specialty doctors have between 4 and 20 years of post-graduate experience, and spend a majority of their time on clinical duties and patient care. Specialty doctors may also train other clinicians and engage in research and service development.

Specialist doctors are experienced clinicians who work autonomously, taking responsibility for patients in their area of practice as an expert decision maker. This role primarily focuses on providing clinical care, meeting service delivery and improvement requirements. There are several development opportunities at this stage, including management roles and leadership responsibilities in teaching, academia, research and service development. Specialists are also expected to be involved in deliver teaching and training of others.

After completing CCT, junior doctors become Consultants. Consultants practice in one of the medical or surgical specialties with a breadth of experience. They are expected to provide expert consultation and manage complex cases, taking ultimate responsibility for the care of patients referred to them, even when care is carried out by others. They also lead multidisciplinary teams, and are involved in the teaching and training of student and junior team members.

All clinicians working in the NHS are expected to actively engage in CPD activities, both internally and externally to their organisations.

Career Progression for IMGs

The NHS is a great place for IMGs to progress their careers as clinicians. There are structured and supported progression routes in each specialty and at each grade, with plenty of opportunity to gain extra qualifications and experience. The NHS has relied on international recruitment and expertise since its inception in 1948, and is a progressive and supportive employer for clinicians of all backgrounds.

If you are looking for a new role in the NHS, or would like to take the next step in your career, please register with us here and one of our expert team will be in touch.

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