The Savvy IMG

8 organisations you’ll encounter as a doctor in the UK

These are the health organisations an international medical graduate will encounter when coming to work in the UK as a doctor.

Table of Contents

Montage of logos of health-related organisations in the UK

UPDATED: November 5, 2019

STEMI. CVA. NBM. RBBB. Doctors love acronyms.

When you start out on your journey to the UK you will run into so many new names and acronyms of organisations it may be difficult to keep track – I definitely had a hard time understanding how they all fit together. But it won’t take long before they become a major part of your life and career.

Build a solid understanding of the roles of each one and how they relate to you with this introductory guide.

1. General Medical Council (GMC)

To work as a doctor in the UK you need to be registered with the GMC. The GMC controls who is legally registered and licensed to work as a doctor in the UK. Registering with the GMC can be long and costly if not done right the first time so it’s best to be be prepared ahead of time. Related:

2. National Health Service (NHS)

The National Health Service is the public tax-funded healthcare system here in the UK. Your first job will almost certainly be in an NHS hospital unless you go through agencies that place you directly in private hospitals.

Specialty training programmes (residency) take place exclusively within NHS organisations so if you wish to pursue further training, you should expect to work in the NHS. You do not have to work in the NHS for your whole career though, there are options to work in the private sector but it’s really up to you and your end goals.

Related: Career options in the UK for IMGs 2020

3. Medical Royal Colleges and faculties

You may have heard of the different Royal Colleges such as the Royal College of Physicians or the Faculty of Occupational Medicine. They are professional membership bodies and have many roles in things like supervising specialty training and contributing to health care policy.

Royal Colleges produce clinical standards and guidelines for managing conditions under their scope of practice. You need to know about these guidelines because they are often tested in exams and interviews.

The Royal Colleges also administer higher specialist exams and hold well-organised high-yield courses, some of which are mandatory for specialty training. Attending Royal College courses looks good on your CV.

Related: 8 tips to succeed when applying for UK specialty training

4. Health Education England (HEE)

This organisation is responsible for overseeing the training of all healthcare professionals (HCP), this includes doctors. Essentially HEE determine how many of each type of HCP is needed to meet the health needs of the public. They also support the systems that provide the training. 

The counterpart organisations in the other UK nations are:

  • NHS Education for Scotland
  • NHS Wales Shared Service Partnership
  • Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency

Your most important encounter with HEE will be when you apply to specialty training. HEE are responsible for organising recruitment to specialty training jobs throughout the UK. 

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

In addition, any of these 4 organisations will act as your Tier 2 visa sponsor if you are a foreign national in an official training post.

5. Deaneries or Local Education Training Boards (LETBs)

If HEE is responsible for specialty training in England as a whole, the deaneries and LETBs (pronounced let-bees) are responsible for individual regions.

Being familiar with the deaneries can be useful just to give you an overview of UK geography. You’ll need to know them if you apply for specialty training because you will be asked which deaneries you want to work in.

6. Trade unions

In the NHS doctors are employees and trade unions help to negotiate fair pay and working conditions. There are two official trade unions for doctors in the UK: the British Medical Association (BMA) and Hospital Consultants & Specialists Association (HCSA).

It’s worth signing up to a trade union as they can help protect you against being overworked and underpaid. They can review your contract and salary to make sure everything is in order.

7. Medical defence organisations (MDOs)

These organisations provide medical indemnity cover. They offer assistance with legal and ethical issues that may emerge through your practise. Problems you might need them for include things like dealing with complaints, GMC investigations, disciplinary hearings, and clinical negligence claims.

The 3 main MDOs are Medical Defence Union (MDU), Medical Protection Society (MPS) and Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS). All 3 cover practice throughout the whole of the UK.

Unfamiliar with this term?

You may have heard of the term “malpractice insurance”, in the UK this phrase tends not to be used. Medical indemnity is favoured instead.

It is essential that you join one of the MDOs. In medicine we are always dealing with uncertainty, you never really know what’s going to happen and you need to be prepared for the worst. The costs to join are affordable for any doctor and some organisations offer a free book when you join so don’t forget to ask about that!

8. Recruitment agencies

There are many recruitment agencies in the UK that work to fill job vacancies both in the NHS and private sector. It’s not necessary to go through agencies to find work but you may like having someone working on your behalf.

Some agencies also offer financial aid towards the costs of GMC registration in return for a 1- or 2-year contract. If you’re struggling to cover the initial expenses, you may want to consider working with an agency.

Related: Best first job in the UK as an IMG


Organisation Role Relevance to you
GMC Maintains the medical register in the UK You need to be registered with them to practise medicine in the UK.
NHS Tax-funded public health service You will spend most of your career working in the NHS (options for private work are limited at first).
Medical Royal Colleges and faculties Multiple including supervision and delivery of specialty training and writing clinical guidelines You should be familiar with the clinical guidelines for exams and interviews. Later on down the line you may wish to take their specialty exams and courses.
HEE Plans the NHS workforce You will apply to specialty training through them.
Trade unions (BMA & HCSA) Protect and advance the interest of doctors Assist in employment disputes You might consider joining for the employment advice and contract checking services.
MDOs (MPS, MDU, MDDUS) Provide medical indemnity cover You need them. I strongly recommend you join one.
Recruitment agencies Help hospitals fill job vacancies You don’t need them to find a job but may find it helpful. Consider your options.

So there you have it, an overview of the different organisations you will encounter when you embark on your journey to the UK. From registration to specialty training, over time you will become more familiar with each one and how they play a role in your career.

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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.
We have scoured the official guidance to put these posts together, but we can make mistakes! If you spot anything that is incorrect, please get in touch and we’ll put it right.
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