The Savvy IMG

How to find a UK clinical attachment

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Guide for international medical graduates searching for clinical attachements

Clinical attachments are a great way for IMGs to familiarise themselves with the roles and responsibilities of UK doctors and how the NHS works. It is also useful, but not essential, in preparing for the PLAB 2 exam.

If you don’t have any UK experience or have a long career gap, clinical attachments can also be helpful to demonstrate your motivation and commitment to working in the UK to prospective employers.

So how do you go about getting one?

The main crux of arranging a clinical attachment is finding a UK Consultant who is willing to supervise you in an observership role. It will require extra unpaid work on their part to guide an observer but despite that, there are many Consultants who do say yes.

Now there are different ways you can go about finding a supervising Consultant and applying for a clinical attachment. Here I discuss 5 different methods. I hope one will work for you!

Take note that you must be a medical graduate to participate in a clinical attachment.

If you are still a medical student you will need to arrange a medical elective through a UK university.  The requirements for medical electives differ per university. Please Google “visiting student medical elective uk” for more information. 

Also, make sure you have the Oxford Handbook for the Foundation Programme (available here on Amazon) when doing your clinical attachment or elective! It is a great reference to help with understanding the system and how medicine is practised in the UK.  I used it when I did a medical elective at the Royal London Hospital and it certainly helped me a lot!

1. Apply for an established clinical attachment programme

The hospitals on this list have a formal application process for clinical attachments. This is great because it means you don’t need to find a supervising consultant on your own, they’ll do it for you by matching you to a Consultant in the specialty you request.

Because it’s easier to arrange attachments through these programmes, they often have a lot of applicants making it quite competitive. Nonetheless, do submit your application as there is nothing to lose by doing so.

Check these websites for the application forms, requirements, and fees. (Fees cover for pre-employment checks and visa-related costs that the hospital may incur.)

This list is not exhaustive and you can look for other clinical attachment programmes by searching “clinical attachment + name of the hospital you want to work in”.

Related: Getting ready for your first visit to the UK as an IMG

2. Contact individual consultants

This is the usual way to find clinical attachments. You essentially look for Consultants in the specialty of your choice and email them directly to inquire. Take note, you may need to email dozens of Consultants to get a response but the more you email, the more likely it is you’ll be successful.

To find suitable Consultants, search for hospitals in the area you wish to visit. On the hospital website navigate to the medical department you’re interested in. There should be a list of the Consultants working in that department with their email addresses. Some hospital websites also have a section where they list all the Consultants from all specialties.

If there are no individual email addresses, there may be a department email address or phone number you can call to make an inquiry. Ask about who would be best to contact in the department about arranging an attachment or period of observership.

What to write in your email to a Consultant

The BMA has published this helpful list of what to write your email.

“We suggest that you include the following details in a letter requesting a clinical attachment:

  • your personal details
  • your reasons for wanting to complete a clinical attachment
  • a brief outline of your medical background, your career ambitions, why you are interested in this department/field in particular and what you hope to get from the clinical attachment
  • your level of clinical expertise and your previous work experience in health
  • whether you are applying for GMC registration and what stage in the process you have reached (i.e. whether you have taken/passed the IELTS (international English language test), PLAB 1 or PLAB 2)
  • We recommend also attaching a current CV including medical exams and work experience, a copy of your learning objectives, and details of referees.”

What to do after you’ve found a supervising Consultant

Some hospitals do not have a formal process for facilitating clinical attachments at all. In this case, once you have found a Consultant who is happy to supervise, you’ll need to contact Human Resources (HR) to arrange it. Liaise closely with the Consultant and HR to make the agreed upon attachment a reality.

Other hospitals do have a clinical attachment process in place once you have identified a Consultant who has agreed to supervise you. Here is a list of such hospitals:

3. Contact individual hospitals

It can be helpful to know if certain Consultants are open to supervising a clinical attachment before you email them.

To inquire about which Consultants might be able assist you, I would advise contacting the Director of Medical Education in the Medical Education Department or the Postgraduate Medical Education Centre.

Visit the website of the hospital you would like to have your clinical attachment at and search for the education department. There should be contact details available with either an email address or phone number.

Email is usually the best way to make first contact but if no email address is given, don’t be afraid to call! The members of staff in medical education tend to be very approachable and friendly. They should be able to advise you if there is an established application process for clinical attachments, or which Consultants you can contact.

If you are able to get the Consultant’s email address via the Medical Education Department then do make sure to mention this this in your email to the Consultant.

4. Ask friends or colleagues who have done attachments

Again, this is about identifying Consultants or hospitals that are open to supervising IMGs for a clinical attachment.

If you don’t know anyone who has done an attachment, try visiting one of the many IMG Facebook groups and do this:

  1. Use the search function in the group and search “clinical attachment”.
  2. Many IMGs have asked about clinical attachments before so look in the comments for recommendations.
  3. If anyone has offered to help with clinical attachments or has a recommendation, reply to their comment to ask their permission to send them a private message.
  4. Keep your message brief and respectful, and politely request a contact – whether a Consultant or hospital administrative staff.
  5. Make sure to thank them!

5. Ask friends, family or colleagues working in the UK

If you know someone working in a hospital department you want to have your clinical attachment in, you can request their help. They do not have to be a doctor to help you, most members of staff have good working relationships with their Consultants and may be able to introduce you to them. They can ask the Consultants they are working with if they are open to supervising an IMG in an observership post and give you the contact details.

If you don’t know anyone working in the UK, you can make a new post in a Facebook IMG group asking if anyone is currently working in the department that you want to do a clinical attachment in. Repeat steps 3 to 5 above in method 4 above and hopefully this will provide you a lead.

For those who are helping others arrange clinical attachments:

Do make sure you have permission from the person whose contact details you are passing on before you give it out. Make it clear that a doctor would like to contact them about arranging a clinical attachment. If they don’t agree, please do not give out their details.


This article should give you a solid strategy to find a clinical attachment. By using multiple approaches you will increase your chances of success.

The 5 methods are to:

  1. Apply for an established clinical attachment programme
  2. Contact individual Consultants
  3. Contact individual hospitals
  4. Ask friends or colleagues who have done attachments
  5. Ask friends or colleagues working in the UK

Don’t forget to get a copy of the Oxford Handbook for the Foundation Programme to help you understand what’s going on, and make the most of your clinical attachment.

Disclosure: There are some affiliate links in the article above. This means that at no additional cost to you, we may earn a commission if you make a booking or purchase by clicking on the link. We only recommend products and services that we use ourselves or have proven success amongst IMGs.

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38 Responses

  1. Hello!

    I am soon to be an EU graduate eligible for full GMC registration because of my 6 year school. Can I do a clinical attachment before getting the GMC registration, and without passing PLAB 1?
    Cause online it says that you can’t do the clinical attachment without passing a PLAB 1, so I am not sure.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi there, it depends on the hospital. But if you don’t need to sit PLAB 1 anyway because you’re an EU graduate, then you should be fine. Good luck!

  2. Hi Nick – asking for someone else (and probably a good idea to put in FAQs)- if a doctor has full GMC registration but no job offers and no clinical attachments after 1 year, what options does he have in terms of his GMC licence? Does it “expire”? Does it mean you have to repeat PLABs again? I apologize if this question has been answered elsewhere.

    1. Hi there, a license doesn’t “expire” but you have to continue paying the fees. You never have to repeat the PLAB exams. Definitely a common question that we should add to the FAQs. Thanks!

  3. Hi Nick,
    As you are aware, applying to speciality training requires 12 months of post-internship clinical experience. Do medical attachments account towards those 12 months?

  4. hi, nick, i have cleared my plab 2, going for gmc registration now. i am interested to do my post grad in psychiatry or medicine–endocrinology. can u help me to get observership for 4 weeks followed by fy2—–ready to pay for services.

    1. Hi Dr, I’m afraid we don’t have any services to help secure attachments or jobs. You can try in the IMG clinical attachment FB group to see if there are any openings. Good luck!

  5. Hi, im a international student currently studying in the Philippines, I’ve just finished my 3rd year. We usually have our clerkship in 4th year but due to COVID restrictions it’s shift to online. Can I apply for a clinical elective in UK while still completing my 4th year online? Also will the elective be equivalent to clinical rotations that are required as part of my PMQ in order for me to apply to the FP in UK in the future?

    1. Hi Tam, that’s a tough one. I haven’t heard anything yet about how the GMC handles online clinical rotations. Best to contact them directly and please let us know what they say or post in the Filipino IMG group on Facebook. It could affect a lot of Filipino IMGs!

  6. Hello, i currently finished medical school, and have successfully obtained my FULL GMC REGISTRATION with PLAB because i studied in an EU university. Now, im looking for a job but most jobs required UK experience thats is some sort of clinical attachment. and being a NON-EU citizen, i cannot go to the UK without a visa. so is it possible to get clinical attachment that can sponsor my visa??? so that once finish my attachment, i could be able to take a job with the NHS

    1. Hi there, so once you find a clinical attachment you need to apply for a visitor visa. The hospital doesn’t sponsor you but they can provide a letter which you can attach to your visa application to show the purpose of your visit. There is no guarantee that you will get a job once the attachment finishes but some IMGs are given job offers by the same hospital.

  7. Hello,

    Does doing an observership with a GP count as an attachment? Or an observership? Does it still count as NHS experience since GPs are employed by the NHS? If I am able to do an attachment, can I ask the person to be my reference also? Is that usual (asking the doctor you obnserved to be a reference, even if it is only for 1 month )
    Thank you!

    1. Hi there, I’m afraid observerships or attachments don’t count as NHS work experience as you are not actually working during these roles. References generally need to come from places where you have been employed so I don’t think that would be accepted. It might be helpful to ask in the IMG groups on FB if anyone has had any recent experience with this particular matter. Hope you find a favourable response! All the best!

  8. Hello , is it possible to apply for a clinical attachment with IELTS and after passing Plab 1? And can we apply for a Tier 2 work visa or a student visa if we get accepted for the said attachment? Since Im in a red list country the standard Tourist visas are not being issued

  9. hi! can med students also do clinical attachments? I’m currently a 4th year med student from Europe planning to come work in the UK after graduation and wanted to do sort of shadowing or attachment (idk what its called) in the UK next year. from what I’ve gathered, it is a paid program. can you help me out?

    1. Hi there, as mentioned above you must be a medical graduate to participate in a clinical attachment. If you are still a medical student you will need to arrange a medical elective through a UK university. The requirements for medical electives differ per university. Please Google “visiting student medical elective uk” for more information. Best of luck!

      Oh and attachments, electives and shadowing are not paid, you may even need to pay a fee for it!

  10. Hello. I am a medical student currently but I hope to do my one-year compulsory clinical rotation(internship) required by my school before I can graduate in the UK. Do you think this is possible, if yes please how do I apply for it. If no, do you have any suggestions for me on how to get clinical experience in the UK as a medical student.

    1. Hi Felicia, not it’s not possible to do the full year in the UK. If you would like to get UK clinical experience as a medical student, you can do an elective. We did an elective in the UK many years ago and it was a very enriching experience! Please Google “visiting student medical elective” to find the universities that offer these. They are usually 4-8 weeks long. Best of luck!

  11. Thanks for your kind guidance, I wanted to know whether one can get clinical attachment in a department like radiology or any other department without having appeared for IELTES and PLAB .

    1. Hi there, it depends on the requirement of the hospital. Most require IELTS and at least PLAB 1 but not all. Best to check what the requirements are with the hospital you’re interested in doing a clinical attachment with. Good luck!

  12. Hi Nick ,
    first of all, thank you for your great efforts
    i understood your opinion about clinical attachments and their benefits but i have a question :
    I am a final year medical student so i am eligible for electives not attachments so i am asking if electives are beneficial as attachments ?
    and will it help me to improve my CV for WAST or FY2 stand alone ?
    i mean is it worth it ?

    1. Hi there, it may not help with your application to WAST or Standalone FY2 but it will certainly help with your application to specialty training after that! Especially if you can get involved with some projects to improve your portfolio.

  13. Hi
    I have passed my mrcp1 recently and going to sit for part 2 soon. I am planning to do clinical attachment in UK so it will be helpful for PACES.
    Kindly guide me about it and tell me the approximate fees without accommodation etc.
    Thanking in anticipation.

    1. Hi there, every hospital is different so you’ll need to inquire at the hospitals you’re interested in. Some have fees while others don’t. Best of luck!

  14. Hello! I am a bit confused about medical electives. Are clinical attachment and electives the same? If not, how are they different and what are the requirements? It would be really helpful if you could elaborate on electives. Just a suggestion. Thanks a lot!

    1. Hi there, electives are only open to medical students. Once you graduate you will not be able to apply for electives, but you can try to get clinical attachments instead. The requirements for medical electives differ per university. Please Google “visiting student medical elective uk” for more information. Best of luck!

  15. Hello,
    I have completed 3 years of training in pathology in India and I am currently living i London. Do you know any hospitals accepting an attachment or observership in pathology in London?

    1. Hi there, we’re not aware of any in particular but you can contact different hospitals to find out who are offering clinical attachments at the moment. You can also ask in one of the FB IMG groups if anyone has had any success with this recently. Best of luck!

  16. Hello,
    I want to know that….. can anyone do observeship or clinical attachment in standard visitor visa after doing plab 2? Are clinical attachment and observeship same thing?

      1. Thank u, Nick!
        But could u plz tell me if it is possible being a medical elective and having clinical attatchment in my country at my undergraduate level? Will it be counted in UK?
        I’m a 3rd year medical student(MBBS), in a Govt. medical college in Bangladesh.. Please help

      2. Hi Nick ,
        In Guy’s hospital VPP programme website, they do differentiate between clinical observership and clinical attachment, with the latter requiring GMC registration. What would this entail?

        Many thanks,

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Meet the Team

Hi, we’re Drs Nick & Kimberly Tan, the two IMGs behind The Savvy IMG. We write comprehensive guides, create courses, and provide one-to-one guidance to help other overseas qualified doctors on their journey to the UK.
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