What is a Clinical Attachment in the UK?
A clinical attachment, sometimes referred to as an ‘observership,’ involves shadowing a healthcare team in a hospital department you’d be interested in working in the future. The primary goal would be to understand how that particular specialty/department works and to familiarise yourself with the NHS infrastructure as a whole.
Clinical attachments are a great chance for those who have had a break in their medical education or those feeling apprehensive about joining the NHS. They provide a useful refresher, helping individuals reconnect with the medical field dynamics and ease any concerns about the transition.
What to expect from a Clinical Attachment
Typically, clinical attachments in the UK last between 4-6 weeks. The scope of your clinical attachment experience can vary depending on which hospital you are at and what specific arrangement you signed up to. Some hospitals may restrict you to an ‘observer’ role, particularly if you haven’t obtained GMC registration yet.
You should anticipate starting with limited responsibilities as you work closely with a consultant. This consultant may slowly assign you more tasks based on your progression. Possible tasks could include:
- Clerking (admitting) patients
- Participating in ward rounds
- Conducting patient interviews and obtaining their medical history
- Engaging in directly observed clinical examinations of patients
- Observing and gaining insights into various surgical procedures
How do I find a Clinical Attachment?
There is no specific nationwide application platforms dedicated to obtaining a clinical attachment. Some NHS trusts or hospitals run their own programme instead. To apply, you can visit their website and follow the application process. These programmes connect you with a consultant working within your chosen specialty.
Some hospitals running their own clinical attachment programme include:
- Guy’s & Thomas’ Hospital
- Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust
- Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust
- University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust
- Moorfields Eye Hospital
- NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
If you have a particular hospital in mind, you can visit their website, and navigate to a list of consultants working within your specialty of interest. There you will find their contact details, or the details of the department’s admin team, and can email them directly to ask for a potential placement. Another way to find hospitals that have clinical attachments could be to google search the name of the hospital, followed by ‘clinical attachment’.
When requesting a clinical attachment, here are a few things you should include in your email:
- Your contact details
- Why you would like to complete a clinical attachment
- A summary of your medical background, career aspirations, and the reasons for your interest in this specific field
- Objectives you aim to achieve through the clinical attachment
- Your level of clinical expertise and relevant healthcare background
- If you are applying for GMC registration and what stage you are at in the process
- An up-to-date CV – you may consider taking a look at our CV tips below