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Doctor accreditation in the UK

The UK trains its doctors rigorously and has strict rules in place to make sure that doctors from bothe the UK and from overseas who practise in UK hospitals are well qualified and highly competent. Most UK private hospitals require that their doctors do work in the National Health Service (NHS) as well as in private practice, recognising the advantages of having staff with the extensive experience obtained working in the public sector.

Medical accreditation is considered essential for all UK health professionals.The General Medical Council is the registration and monitoring body for doctors. The Health Professions Council (HPC) is the regulatory body responsible for setting and maintaining standards of professional conduct within allied professions such as physiotherapy.

Medical accreditation and training in the UK

Gaining a medical qualification takes many years of study and the competition for places at UK medical schools is fierce. All UK medical students start by taking an undergraduate course, after which they are awarded the degree of Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, commonly called “the first MB”. This first stage of study includes a thorough grounding in anatomy, physiology and other medical sciences – the preclinical part of the course, and then includes clinical placements in NHS hospitals and in community medicine. The entire training takes 5-6 years to this stage.

  • Around 8000 medical students start their studies each year in the UK; the number of places has more than doubled in the last decade.
  • Doctors who have a medical degree are not allowed to practice independently straight away. Their clinical training continues in the Foundation Programme. For one year new doctors practice under strict supervision as a Foundation House Officer and then apply for registration with the General Medical Council (GMC). Their second year as a House Officer then completes the first stage of their training.
  • No doctor in the UK can practice without being on the medical register of the GMC: this is compulsory medical accreditation. Any doctor found to be negligent or incompetent can be ‘struck off’ the medical register, and banned from practicing medicine in the UK.

Medical accreditation of UK Consultants

Once basic training is complete, doctors practice medicine and do further training to become a General Practioner (GP), who works mainly in community medicine, or in a hospital-based specialist. These doctors eventually become hospital consultants, but only after they have done a minimum of 6 years as a Specialty Registrar. Private hospitals generally employ established consultants who have several more years of experience in a busy NHS hospital.

General Medical Council Registration

The General Medical Council plays a major role in maintaining high standards for doctors in the UK. Its ultimate objective is patient safety and this prestigious body overseas the registration of every new doctor, whether they are trained in the UK or overseas, so that all attain the same high standard.

The GMC also registers doctors as General Practitioners, once they have adequate experience, and as consultants in different medical specialties.

The GMC is itself regulated by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence and the standards of regulation for doctors and consultants are reviewed often. From 2012, all consultants practicing in the UK will need to go through a five-year review, overseen by the GMC, to make sure all doctors reach the highest standards throughout their career.

Medical accreditation in UK private hospitals

Consultants must have high levels of medical accreditation and are accepted into a private hospital or clinic only if they meet strict criteria. For example, the Portland Hospital in central London, which is a dedicated children’s and women’s hospital, takes on consultants who:

  • Practice as a consultant in the NHS
  • Hold a GMC certificate
  • Are registered as a consultant specialist with the GMC
  • Have professional indemnity insurance
  • Have Criminal Records Bureau clearance
  • Have been interviewed and approved by the Chief Executive Officer
  • Have been approved by the hospital Medical Advisory Committee

Medical accreditation of other health professionals

The UK also has strict standards for other health professionals:


The UK Accreditation Forum also exists as a network of all regulatory organisations to share experience in good practice in medical accreditation.