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How long is specialty training (residency) in the UK?

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Updated: April 8, 2020

Answer: It varies from 3-8 years.

Specialty training in the UK can only start once you have 2 years of postgraduate clinical experience. This includes an internship of at least 12 months duration, and a minimum of 12 months experience post-internship.

After those initial 2 years, this is how long the different specialty training programmes last:

SpecialtyMinimum duration of training

Surgery

Cardiothoracic Surgery, ENT, General Surgery, Neurosurgery, Paediatric Surgery, Plastic Surgery, Trauma and Orthopaedics, Urology, Vascular Surgery

7-8 years
Oral and maxillofacial surgeryDental degree + medical degree + foundation training + 6 years specialty training

Medicine (Group 1: hospital based acute specialties)

Acute Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Endocrinology & Diabetes Mellitus, Gastroenterology, Genitourinary Medicine, Geriatric Medicine, Infectious Diseases, Medical Oncology, Neurology, Palliative Medicine, Renal Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Rheumatology and Tropical Medicine

3 years core training
+
4-5 years higher specialty training

Medicine (Group 2: clinic based non-acute specialties)

Allergy, Audiovestibular Medicine, Aviation & Space Medicine, Clinical Genetics, Clinical Neurophysiology, Dermatology, Haematology, Immunology, Infectious Diseases (when combined with Medical Microbiology or Virology), Medical Ophthalmology, Nuclear Medicine, Paediatric Cardiology, Pharmaceutical Medicine, Rehabilitation Medicine and Sport and Exercise Medicine

2-3 years core training
+
4 years higher specialty training
Anaesthetics2-3 years core training + 5 years higher specialty training
Emergency Medicine6 years
General Practice3 years
Obstetrics and Gynaecology7 years
Oncology (Clinical) includes Radiotherapy2-3 years core training in medicine
+
5 years higher specialty training
Ophthalmology7 years
Pathology5 years
Paediatrics8 years
Psychiatry6 years
Radiology5 years

Factors that can lengthen the duration of training

  1. Delayed start. It can take more than a single attempt to successfully secure a training job thereby adding to the total number of years. Also, some doctors deliberately delay specialty training in order to gain broader clinical experience first.
  2. Different lengths of core training. Some higher specialty training jobs (ST3+) will accept multiples types of core training programmes which can differ in duration.
    • For example Dermatology accepts 2 years IMT, OR 3 years ACCS, OR 2-3 years paediatrics and usually 1 year adult medicine.
  3. Dual accreditation. It’s very common for Consultants in medical specialties to pursue dual accreditation, for example Respiratory Medicine & Acute Internal Medicine. Dual accreditation requires an additional year of training.
  4. Failed postgraduate exams. In the UK, postgraduate exams are sat during the years of specialty training, not after. Failing an exam can result in extension of training, while multiple failures can result in loss of a training job.
  5. Post-CCT fellowship. After completing a training programme you will be awarded a Certificate of Completion (CCT). You are eligible to register as a Consultant with this but some doctors pursue further fellowship training before taking on a Consultant post. This will inevitably add years to the total training duration.
  6. Switching specialty. Your interests can change over time. Obviously if you switch specialty it can take longer to complete training.
  7. Maternity leave.
  8. Working part-time aka Less Than Full Time (LTFT) training. This can be to care for children, elderly parents, disabled family members, or to pursue other interests while training such as a second career.
  9. Taking time out for further education (Masters, PhD etc), research or teaching.

Need more detailed information about the training pathway?

Use this short guide to find reliable information about the UK training pathways for specific specialties.

Further reading

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Looking for a step-by-step guide?

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2 Responses

  1. Hi Nick! Thanks for the well laid out information. It’s been very helpful. I had a question regarding IMT Group 1 training. I have ten months of clinical experience post internship/after my national registration. However after those ten months I enrolled towards an academic post grad degree(recently completed). Withstanding my complete GMC registration(process ongoing) I am hoping to apply for IMT in the August 21′ cycle. My main queries here are: 1) if I complete 2 months more in my home country now to fulfill the one year clause; would that be alright or is one year in continuity required? 2) If I were to have my crest form signed nationaly by the relevant supervisors; can I still join fy2 in August for a few months while I also apply for IMT in the August cycle( in the case my IMT app is rejected on the basis of no uk experience; as at that point I would be applying solely on overseas experience etc. That way by starting fy 2 in august I can have an ongoing safety net; although I am potentially concerned about the impact of relinquishing my fy 2 post if I get accepted for IMT. Or if that matter is what I want to do allowed? ) . Thanks so much for the guidance. Kind Regards.

    1. Hi there! 1. Continuity is not mentioned anywhere however you need CREST and for that, you need to work with a Consultant for 3 months within 3.5 years of the start of training. 2. That’s probably not possible because you need foundation competences (CREST) signed for application to IMT, and one of the exclusion criteria for standalone FY2 is that you do not have your foundation competences already.

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