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To practise as a doctor in the UK, either in private practice or the NHS, you must hold a recognised primary medical qualification and be registered with the General Medical Council. There are two types of registration, provisional and full.

Provisional registration allows a newly qualified doctor to undertake the clinical training necessary for full registration. Provisional registration only entitles the doctor to work in supervised posts approved for ‘Foundation year 1’ (F1) training. Provisional registration is granted to all graduates of UK medical schools recognised under the Medical Act 1983. Holders of primary qualifications from outside the UK may also be eligible depending on their qualification, nationality and/or linguistic skills. Full information on eligibility can be found on the GMC website.

Full registration is necessary to work unsupervised in the NHS or private practice. It is normally granted on satisfactory completion of the provisional registration (F1) period. Some doctors qualifying outside the UK may be eligible to apply directly for full registration. Full information is available on the GMC website.

Following completion of F1 training, a second year of foundation training (Foundation year 2 – F2) is needed to complete the two year training programme (Foundation programme) which forms the bridge between medical school and training in a specific specialty or general practice. Posts approved for the F2 year focus on the assessment and management of the acutely ill patient as well as building generic skills such as team work, time management, communication and IT skills.

Click for further information on the Foundation programme.

Following completion of the Foundation programme, doctors go on to further post-graduate training either in a specific medical (including public health) or surgical specialty or in general practice. This stage of training takes around five years. Doctors in this stage of training are called specialty registrars and work in posts approved by the Post-graduate Medical Education and Training Board (PMETB) working to curricula agreed with the appropriate Royal College or Faculty. The Faculty of Public Health (FPH) is responsible for overseeing training in public health. The curriculum for public health training is available on line on the FPH website.

Recruitment to specialty training posts is organised by the regional Post-graduate Deaneries but is co-ordinated nationally so that a similar time frame and process are operated across England. The arrangements vary from year to year. Full information is available through the Modernising Medical Careers website.

During training, the examinations for membership of the appropriate Royal College or Faculty are taken and passed. For Public Health, the examinations for membership of the Faculty of Public Health would be taken. On successful completion of specialty training, a certificate of completion of training (CCT) is awarded and the doctor is eligible for inclusion in the appropriate specialty register as part of their full registration with the GMC. Doctors who hold a CCT (or trainees within 6 months of completion of their training programme) are eligible to apply for a consultant post in the NHS. Doctors may only take up a consultant post when their name is in the specialist register.

From November 2009, the GMC will be introducing the licence to practise. All doctors, whether full or part time, locum, working in NHS or private practice, will require a licence as well as GMC registration. The licence will require renewal at intervals and the GMC are developing a system of revalidation as the basis for granting renewal. The revalidation process is still being developed but will be intended to provide objective assurance that the doctor is up to date and fit to practice. Further details can be found on the GMC website.


See the following career stories:

“Working as a doctors to bring government departments and organisations together has been very rewarding”

William Bird – GP and Strategic Advisor, Natural England 


“A key element of my work has been to engage local GPs in the drive to improve quality in the management of long-term conditions”

Matt Kearney – GP Public Health Practitioner 


“I was drawn to my role because it spoke to my fascination with science and physics and I was keen to be at the forefront of the emergency discipline of health protection”

 Jill Meara - Deputy Director / Consultant in Public Health 


“You need to know which issues to engage with – there’s no point in choosing battles that you can’t win”

 Frank Atherton – Director of Public Health and President, Association of Public Health


“My job as Deputy Director of Public Health allows me to continue to lead on a number of technical areas whilst giving the opportunities to work at a strategic level and influence change”

 John Tomlinson – Deputy Director of Public Health


“One challenge is ensuring that screening services are evidence-based. I would recommend screening as a career – it involves health improvement, quality and protection”

Rosemary Fox – Deputy Director, Screening Services


“I use my public health skills to ensure all the services we commission are high quality, equitably delivered and contribute to the overall pathway and improve health”

Alison Rylands – Director of Public Health, North West Specialised Commissioning Team


“What attracted me to public health was the holistic approach to the population, with prevention being better than cure”

 Naveed Syed – Consultant in Communicable Disease Control


"I have to be aware in my Director of Public Health role of the health of the whole community”

Leslie Wilkie – Director of Public Health


“On a daily basis I work with a variety of colleagues in clinical neurology, neuropathology, epidemiology, statistics, molecular biology, genetics and biochemistry”

 Hester Ward – Consultant and Honorary Reader in Epidemiology and Public Health 

“I decided to apply for a training post in public health. The programme was structured, the MSc a privilege, epidemiology and statistics appealed to my mathematical and logical side, sociology was fascinating. I had found what I was looking for”

 Premila Webster – Head of School of Public Health and Training Programme Director

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