Living and working in the UK as a GP: a guide for overseas doctors and their families
This guide is for family doctors who have never worked in the UK as a GP, including doctors from the UK who have done their speciality training abroad. It aims to support you to make an informed decision about whether living and working in the UK as a GP is right for you, and to help you understand what is involved.
We are delighted that you are considering coming to the UK to work as a general practitioner. Whether you call yourself a family physician, médecin généraliste, huisarts or médico de cabecera, or indeed any name given to a general practitioner, you are very welcome as a GP in the National Health Service (NHS).
Moving to a new country is a big commitment that at first can seem overwhelming, but there is a lot of support available.
"I have been a GP in the NHS for over 15 years and there is truly no better job. If you decide to move to the UK to work as a GP you will find a huge amount of support available to you including from the organisations that have partnered to develop this guide. Now is the time to move to the UK to build your career in general practice. I very much look forward to welcoming you as a colleague.” Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, PhD FRCGP, Past Chair of RCGP
GPs and their teams are at the heart of the NHS and at the centre of our communities. Together they provide over 360 million consultations every year, diagnosing and treating the physical, social and psychological issues that patients are dealing with. No two practices are the same, so whether you are interested in working as a salaried GP in a large inner-city practice, as a partner in a small rural practice or even as a locum doctor to gain experience in a variety of work settings, there is a role for you as a GP in the NHS.
The GP workforce is very diverse – just like our patients. There are thousands of GPs from countries other than the UK working in the NHS. They are especially valued for the new skills and perspectives that they bring to practices.
Living and working in the UK as a GP: a guide for overseas doctors and their families
The United Kingdom is an increasingly diverse country. A move to the UK presents you with a wide variety of locations to choose from, from large, vibrant urban centres with access to world-class culture and heritage, cuisine and sports, to rural and coastal locations where you can appreciate daily the vast natural beauty of the UK. Countryside doesn't get much better than the Scottish Highlands, Brecon Beacons, Lake District or Mourne Mountains.
Britain is one of the most visited countries in the world. VisitBritain provides a wealth of information about UK attractions, region by region.
The UK is also regularly ranked as one of the world's best places to live. With a population of 64.6million and the world's fifth largest economy, it has considerable international economic, political, scientific and cultural influence.
The UK government has produced a guide on moving to the UK. You can also view guides on moving to specific parts of the UK:
These guides include information on aspects of British life including education, housing and healthcare.
Cost of living
Living costs vary across countries and regions, with the highest costs generally found in London. This is often taken into account in salaries by including an allowance known as London weighting.
You can find an overview of the cost of living in the UK on Numbeo.
The UK offers a wide range of housing options. Renting and buying is normally done through estate agents. Property prices vary widely across countries and regions.
In the UK, schools are either state schools funded by government and are free for all pupils, or they are independent schools and charge fees to the parents of the pupils.
Education in the UK is devolved, with each of the four nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland having separate systems. As an overview, across the UK there are five stages of education:
- early years
- further education
- higher education
Education is compulsory for all children between the ages of five (four in Northern Ireland) and 16.
Children usually attend primary and secondary schools closest to where they live if there are places available. In England, you must apply through the local council for a school place.
Each school has regular inspections and you can view the reports on the Ofsted website to find out how well a school has performed.
Further education and higher education are not compulsory. Further education covers education which can be taken at colleges and higher education institutions. Higher education is study beyond GCSE, A levels and their equivalent which, for most full-time students, takes place in universities and other higher education institutions, and colleges.
The UK has some of the best universities in the world. Britain has seven universities in the top 50 of the Times Higher Education 2016 to 2017 World University Rankings including the number one rated in university in the world.
There are several childcare options available including nurseries, childminders and creches.
In England, all three and four-year-olds are entitled to 570 hours of free early education of childcare a year. As with schooling, nurseries and childcare providers are regularly inspected by Ofsted, and you can view the reports of how they are performing on the Ofsted website.
Opening a UK bank account
Setting up a new bank account can be challenging. It is worth checking with your existing bank to see if they have a relationship with a bank that has a presence in the UK.
Your home bank may be able to set up an account for you if it has a banking relationship with a British bank. Many major UK banks also have international accounts. These are designed specifically for non-residents, so they're a good option if you don’t have the documents to prove your UK address. You may be able to apply for an international account online. Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC, NatWest all offer international bank accounts.
You can get advice on opening a UK bank account without proof of address from Money Facts.
Driving in the UK
You may be able to drive in the UK (England, Wales and Scotland) for up to 12 months on your foreign licence. You can check eligibility on GOV UK as well as get information on exchanging your foreign licence for a UK licence. The process in Northern Ireland is different.
The NHS was created in 1948, born out of an ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. This means that today, more than 64.6 million people in the UK receive free care at the point of need.
The NHS deals with over one million patients every 36 hours. It covers the full spectrum of primary and secondary care, from antenatal care and treatment for long-term conditions, to emergency treatment and end-of-life care. It employs more than 1.5 million people, placing it in the top five of the world's largest workforces.
Responsibility for healthcare in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is devolved to the Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly Government and the Northern Ireland Assembly respectively. Our fact sheets give more detail on the NHS in each of the four UK nations.
- NHS in England (PDF file, 174 KB)
- NHS in Scotland (PDF file, 198 KB)
- NHS in Wales (PDF file, 227 KB)
- NHS in Northern Ireland (PDF file, 142 KB)
Becoming an NHS GP
"There is arguably no more important job in modern Britain than that of the family doctor. GPs are by far the largest branch of British medicine. A growing and ageing population, with complex health conditions, means that personal and population-orientated primary care is central to a country’s health system. As a recent BMJ headline put it, if general practice fails, the whole NHS fails." Simon Stevens, Chief Executive, NHS England
With GPs carrying out 90 per cent of patient contacts in the health service, general practice is the bedrock of the NHS.
The expert generalist skills of GPs have never been more in demand. As more care is shifted out of hospitals into the community, GPs are increasingly leading multi-professional teams to provide new integrated services for patients, using a wide range of medical and management skills.
GPs manage the widest range of health problems providing:
- both regular and reactive health promotion
- making accurate diagnoses and risk assessments
- dealing with multi-morbidity
- coordinating long-term care
- addressing the physical, social and psychological aspects of patients' wellbeing throughout their lives
They are also involved in deciding how health and social services should be organised to deliver safe, effective and accessible care to patients in their communities.
This is an exciting time to work in UK general practice. By joining the 50,000 plus GPs currently working in the UK, many from overseas, you can enjoy a rewarding and varied career that offers unrivalled flexibility, with the option to fit the job around other major commitments, such as having a family. It also gives you the opportunity to practise in the region of your choice, and to decide to be wholly a generalist or to develop skills in a specific area as a GP with a special interest.
Read personal accounts of being a GP in:
- Kent, England (PDF file, 116 KB)
- Edinburgh, Scotland (PDF file, 114 KB)
- Ayrshire, Scotland (PDF file, 165 KB)
- Derry and the Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland (PDF file, 187 KB)
You can also watch a video from a GP working in north Wales in north Wales.
"There has never been a more exciting time to come and live and work in Scotland as a GP, the importance of the GP as the clinical leader in the patients journey is underpinned by the NHS Scotland Clinical Strategy and Realistic Medicine - come to Scotland and be supported to be the doctor you have always wanted to be” Dr Gregor Smith, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Scotland
Guidance on medical professionalism
It can be difficult to adjust quickly to working in the UK. The BMA can advise you on what medical professionalism in the UK means in practice on 'non clinical' topics such the patient-centred and shared decision-making approach favoured in the UK. BMA members have access to comprehensive, practical on-line guidance on all aspects of medical ethics.
The GMC also run a free half-day learning session, Welcome to UK Practice. The session will help doctors new to practise, or new to the country, to understand the ethical issues that will affect them and their patients on a day to day basis.
Finding the GP role that's right for you
The UK needs more GPs and there are vacancies in many areas of the country. This means that there are lots of job opportunities for GPs moving to the UK, and you should not have any difficulty in finding a suitable role at a practice that is a good fit for you.
There are some areas with particularly high levels of vacancies, across all of Wales, particularly in rural areas.
In England :
- the north
- West Country
- Dumfries and Galloway
- Ayrshire and Arran
In Northern Ireland:
- Derry and Londonderry
These areas have a lot to offer, with lower living and housing costs. You can work in urban centres, rural communities or coastal towns.
There are several websites advertising GP vacancies including RCGP jobs which will give you an idea of the variety of roles on offer.
Types of roles
There are a variety of working arrangements for GPs, explained below and on our GP roles factsheet (PDF file, 221 KB). There is also more information on the model contract to give you an idea of the working arrangements you will be agreeing to.
A GP partner part-owns the practice and their income comes from the money the practice makes, which means it is dependent upon the success of the practice. They are responsible for staffing, performance management, premises and financial accountability.
A salaried GP is an employee of the practice, or another organisation. The GP's salary is agreed between the GP and their employer.
A locum GP temporarily provides services where there is a short-term need, such as when a practice is short-staffed or another GP is absent. Typically, they are paid for each session they work.
There is also the option of building a varied portfolio career. This could include working with the police, in prisons, in urgent out-of-hours care, as a GP with a special interest, or a medico-legal GP.
GPs can move between many different roles and locations throughout their careers, and build flexible working patterns around the needs of their patients as well as their personal lives. Find out more and read case studies of GPs with varied careers.
This guide is for GPs new to the UK and the NHS, however if you want to return to work here or do your GP training here, the information below will help you on your way.
I've worked as a GP in the UK before and would like to return
If you have worked in the UK as GP before, and have been working abroad and wish to return the portfolio route may be the right option for you.
GP International Induction Programme (IIP) and Return to Practice (RtP) Programme
GP International Induction Programme (IIP) and Return to Practice (RtP) Programmes are designed to support GPs who have previously been in general practice to return to practise, and to induct GPs into the workforce.
GP induction programmes provide a safe and supported route for qualified GPs to join NHS general practice. Induction programmes in the UK have slight variation from nation to nation.
You will need to complete an induction programme to be accepted onto a National Medical Performers List (NMPL), which will enable you to start working. Have a look at our fact sheet on induction (PDF file, 192 KB) for more detailed information.
While you are undergoing induction, you are eligible for a free year of RCGP Associate Membership. This includes all the benefits of Associate Membership, except the hard-copy of the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP), which you can access electronically. All you need to provide to qualify is proof of registration on an induction programme.
I haven't done specialty training and would like to do my GP specialty training in the UK
The General Practice National Recruitment Office (NRO) is the body responsible for coordinating the process for recruitment to GP Speciality Training Programmes in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The NHS welcomes applications from established family doctors from overseas and international medical graduates looking to train as a GP in England and has information online about the routes available.
The Welsh Government and NHS Wales has launched the This is Wales: Train, Work, Live campaign to promote Wales as an excellent place for doctors, including GPs and their families, to train, work and live.
The time it takes to be able to work as a GP in the UK will depend on your nationality, where you gained your primary medical qualification, and your experience. It can take many months to go through all of the required processes, so it is important to start planning and applying as far in advance as possible. Don’t worry if there is a problem, or if things don’t quite go according to plan, you can seek help from all of the organisations who have contributed to this guide, depending on your needs. The steps involved are:
- Licence to Practise and General Medical Council (GMC) registration
- GP Registration
- Induction and inclusion on the National Medical Performers List (NMPL)
You may wish to see the full RCGP section on qualifying as a GP in the NHS.
Registration and licensing
The General Medical Council (GMC) ensures that all registered doctors maintain the high standards the public and the medical profession expect.
Full registration with the GMC along with a licence to practise allow a doctor to practise medicine in the UK. To work as a GP in the NHS, a doctor must also obtain GP Registration and be included on the medical NMPL of the country in which they wish to work.
There are various ways of applying to join the UK medical register and obtaining a licence to practise. The type of application you are eligible to make will depend on your nationality, where you gained your primary medical qualification, and your experience and activities. The GMC website will help you find the applications you are able to make. You should consider applying for GMC registration at least six to twelve months before you intend to take up a post in the UK.
Whichever route is followed, you must:
- have the necessary knowledge of English to practise medicine in the UK
- provide evidence of your identity and nationality, including attending an identity check at the GMC's UK offices
- provide details of all medical and non-medical experience and activities
- provide Certificates of Good Standing from every medical regulatory authority you have been registered with during the past five years
- complete a set of declarations about your fitness to practise
Since 2006, all doctors working in general practice in the NHS must be on the GMC's GP Register unless they are in an approved GP training programme. Depending on personal circumstances, there are several ways a doctor can get GP registration. Whatever the route, doctors must hold full registration with a licence to practise when their name is added to the GP Register.
Induction and the National Medical Performers List
To enable you to start working in the NHS, as a qualified GP, you must complete a programme of induction to be accepted onto a National Medical Performers List (NMPL), for the country in which you first wish to work.
The NMPL provides an extra layer of reassurance for the public that GPs practising in the NHS are suitably qualified, have up to date training, have appropriate English language skills and have passed other relevant checks such as with the Disclosure and Barring Service and the NHS Resolution.
The GMC checks your qualifications and whether your training is fit for purpose. The NMPL states that you are fit to practise as an independent practitioner.
The application process requires you to complete an application form and submit the relevant documents. In England the current paper based system will be replaced by an online portal with the ability to upload relevant documents to a secure website in spring of 2018. This will enable doctors to start their application while overseas and help to reduce the time taken to process the application.
There are separate lists for Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, each health board runs its own performers list and there is no central list. You can choose to be added to other areas in Scotland in addition to the area you first apply to work in.
The licence to practise and revalidation
Once you hold a licence to practise to work as a GP in the UK, you are legally required to revalidate. This is usually every five years and is based on having an annual appraisal based on the GMC’s core guidance for doctors. Most doctors have a connection to an organisation known as a designated body, for example an NHS local area team or health board, that will support them with appraisal and revalidation.
All doctors are required to have adequate and appropriate insurance and indemnity cover before starting work in the UK.
Doctors who are EEA nationals, from Switzerland, or have EC rightsAll non-UK nationals, including EEA nationals (except for the Republic of Ireland) require a Skilled (Health) Workers Visa (replaced the Tier 2 visa) or must have “indefinite leave to remain” to be able to work in the UK. To gain the visa you must have a job offer in the UK and to be granted a licence by the GMC, you will need the necessary knowledge of English and may need to take a test to prove this. You will also have to do apply for and complete a period of induction.
Registration and licensing
If you graduated from a medical school in the EEA or Switzerland and completed a medical internship, you may be able to use this qualification to apply for full registration. The GMC website provides a list of the specific documents that you need to provide, depending on their country and date of qualification.
Doctors who attained a GP qualification in the EEA or Switzerland which is listed in The Directive on Recognition of Professional Qualifications for the country in which they obtained the qualification are entitled to mutual recognition of that qualification.
Doctors who attained a GP qualification in the EEA or Switzerland which is not listed in The Directive on Recognition of Professional Qualifications for the country in which they obtained the qualification are entitled to an assessment of their qualification under the general system. This will compare the training they have undertaken to the UK GP curriculum. Doctors in this position should read the guidance for Certificate of Eligibility for GP Registration (CEGPR) applicants.
Doctors from outside the EEA
If you are a non-EEA national, you will need a job offer and a visa to work in the UK. A Tier 2 (General) visa is required and there are several rules you need to meet. More information can be found on the GOV UK and BMA websites.
If you are from outside the EEA, you may have specific rights to live and work in the UK, if you are the spouse of an EEA national, or because you have commonwealth ancestry rights. If you think this may apply to you, please check the GOV.UK website.
Immigration and visas
Immigration and visa rules change dramatically and frequently and the current system is extremely complex. For overseas doctors working and training in the UK who are subject to the immigration rules, how visa rules are applied can be disruptive.
BMA members can access a free Immigration advice service which provides basic immigration advice in connection with your employment and study in the UK.
You can stay up to date by signing up to the BMA's free visa alerts service
Registration and licensing
If you do not hold a UK primary medical qualification, there are three ways you can obtain full registration with a licence to practise:
- Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB)
- Certificate of Eligibility for GP Registration (CEGPR)
These assess whether you have the required knowledge and skills to practise medicine safely. Whichever route is followed, you must hold an acceptable primary medical qualification.
To obtain a GMC licence to practise, doctors from outside the EEA must prove that they have the necessary knowledge of English to communicate effectively so that the safety of patients is not put at risk. This includes speaking, reading, writing and listening.
There are several ways that doctors from outside the EEA can demonstrate they have the necessary knowledge of English, including achieving the required scores in the International English Testing System (IELTS). More information can be found on the GMC website.
Doctors who have either a postgraduate qualification in general practice, or a minimum of six months GP training – undertaken anywhere in the world – can apply for a Certificate of Eligibility for GP Registration (CEGPR). The GMC does not automatically recognise any GP qualifications attained outside of the EEA although evidence of GP training undertaken overseas can be useful supporting evidence for CEGPR applications. Similarly, RCGP accredited international membership assessments leading to MRCGP [INT] are unique to each of the nine countries where international members have qualified. As such, MRCGP [INT] is not automatically deemed equivalent to UK MRCGP, but can be used to support a CEGPR application. Doctors who have, however, completed their postgraduate GP training in Australia, may be eligible to apply using the Streamlined Process for Australia (SPA). The SPA process is a CEGPR application which is less complex than the standard CEGPR application.
Once you have gained a CEGPR you are automatically included in the GP Register.
Certification of Eligibility for GP Registration (CEGPR) and CEGPR Streamlined Process for Australia (SPA) applications
A CEGPR application can be made by doctors who feel that their knowledge, skills and experience are equivalent to the standards required by the current approved curriculum for UK general practice.
CEGPR Applicants will need to provide verified documentary evidence showing how they have achieved all the competencies required by the current GP curriculum. They will be asked to provide referees who can comment on their recent practise and skills, and will also need to submit 'primary evidence' of their work, such as patient logs and case studies. As a general guide, most applicants submit around 500-800 pages of evidence. It can take around six months for your application to be considered from the point of application.
If you have completed your postgraduate training and qualified as a general practitioner in Australia, it may be possible to apply for a CEGPR via the streamlined process for Australia (SPA). For this type of application, the amount of evidence required is significantly reduced as detailed mapping of curricula has shown the health care context, training and assessments in Australia to be close to the UK GP training programme. The focus is on providing evidence from experience as a general practitioner post training. The kind and amount of evidence required for a SPA application will also depend on whether an applicant has recently qualified as a general practitioner. As this is a streamlined process, it is estimated that the whole application process, from the time an applicant starts gathering evidence to when a decision is issued by the GMC, will take about three and a half months.
The RCGP and GMC have produced detailed guidance on the evidence a doctor should submit in support of their CEGPR application.
If you would like to gain MRCGP once you have a CEPGR, you will also need to complete Membership by Assessment of Performance (MAP).
Read about Antony's move from Australia to London (PDF file, 146 KB) and Dr Charlotte Cant's move from Alaska to Scotland (PDF file, 185 KB). Dr Cant has written also provided some top tips on applying for a CEGPR (PDF file, 194 KB).
Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP)
We are the professional membership body and guardian of standards for family doctors in the UK, working to promote excellence in primary healthcare. RCGP provides a collective voice for GPs across the UK in order to lobby and campaign on issues and current affairs affecting general practice.
The College has an infrastructure that supports members wherever they are. As well as headquarters in London, there are national offices in each of the devolved nations, 30 Faculties representing local areas across the UK organised into five regions; an additional Faculty representing the Republic of Ireland and another for international and overseas members; plus a collaboration representing rural issues, the Rural Forum.
International affiliate membership of the RCGP
Overseas GPs are encouraged to register with the RCGP as an international affiliate as soon as they begin considering a move to the UK. Membership provides access to online learning and continuing professional development resources, including clinical knowledge modules and updates on new guidance. You will also gain access to an exclusive global community of over 3,000 RCGP members based in 86 countries, and will receive regular newsletters and updates from our international team. Around 70 per cent of our global members said the RCGP has supported their career progression, and half told us that their motivation for joining the College was to access educational and CPD support.
British Medical Association (BMA)
The BMA is the trade union and professional association for doctors in the UK. It's General Practitioners Committee (GPC) represents all GPs in the UK. It deals with all matters affecting NHS GPs, whether or not they are BMA members and is committed to promoting equal rights and opportunities, supporting diversity and creating an open and inclusive environment for members, employees and stakeholders. The BMA provides specific support for doctors who qualified overseas and overseas nationals training or working in the UK, with resources designed to help.
General Medical Council (GMC)
The GMC is an independent organisation that helps to protect patients and improve medical education and practise across the UK. It decides which doctors are qualified to work here and oversees UK medical education and training. It sets the standards that doctors need to follow, and supports them to make sure that they continue to meet these standards throughout their careers. It also takes action to prevent a doctor from putting the safety of patients, or the public's confidence in doctors, at risk.
British International Doctors' Association (BIDA)
BIDA was established in the UK in 1975 to promote equality and fairness for all doctors and dentists working in the UK. BIDA encourages membership of graduates from all international countries and its mission is to achieve equal treatment of all doctors and dentists based on their competence and merit irrespective of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, country of origin or school of graduation. BIDA is active across the UK and offers free advice, support and mentoring to all international doctors coming to the UK.
British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO)
BAPIO is a membership organisation for doctors of Indian sub-continental origin including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. A national voluntary organisation established in 1996, it was set up to support doctors arriving from India to work in the NHS, and promotes diversity and equality. BAPIO has divisions covering England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Tier 2 Visa Sponsorship: Planning for Post-CCT
If your Tier 2 visa is due to expire at the end of your training, this information should help you to plan ahead, so that when you CCT, you are in the best possible position to move smoothly into a role as a qualified GP.