Career Support

The role of a Consultant in the NHS

This article provides an overview of the role of a Consultant Physician in the NHS.

Becoming a Consultant

A Consultant is a senior doctor who practises in one of the medical or surgical specialties and has expertise in the breadth
of their specialty.

Once a doctor’s specialty training has been completed, they are able to apply for Consultant posts and work without supervision.

In the NHS, the time required to become a consultant depends upon a number of factors, but primarily the speciality chosen; certain specialities require longer training, or are more competitive, and therefore the process of becoming a consultant can take longer. 

The role of a Consultant in the NHS

Typically, a Consultant’s central duty is to carry out the investigations and procedures necessary to establish a patient’s diagnosis and then to give advice and provide treatment where appropriate. The position of a Consultant comes with considerable responsibility, as they are the responsible clinician and accept ultimate responsibility for the care of the patients referred to them.

Another key aspect of the role of a Consultant in the NHS is being involved in, and often leading, multidisciplinary teams delivering care – This involves being able to take an overview of the care pathway and managing other team members accordingly. Consultants are also expected to be involved in the teaching and training of students and junior doctors, and to contribute to their specialty field through research and leadership. They are also required to actively engage in CPD activities both internally and externally to their organisations.

Working as a Consultant in the UK

In the UK, to work in a permanent/substantive Consultant post, you must be on the GMC Specialist Register.

At the end of their specialist training, trainees in the UK will receive their CCT (Certificate of Completion of Training) and will be entered onto the GMC Specialist Register or GP Register.

Doctors who haven’t completed a GMC-approved programme to obtain their CCT, but can evidence that their specialist training, qualifications and experience are equivalent to what is acceptable for CCT in the UK, can apply to join the GMC Specialist Register via the CESR pathway.

Locum Consultant Positions

You do not have to be on the GMC Specialist Register to take up a Locum Consultant post (although you must have the appropriate experience). For this reason, many overseas Consultants will take up employment with an NHS organisation in the capacity of a Locum Consultant on a fixed-term contract and will complete their CESR application from within the UK.

Doctors Relocate works alongside NHS organisations across the UK that can support CESR applicants. To further discuss how we could assist you, please contact us.

What is CESR?

For doctors who have completed their training outside of the UK, the CESR pathway offers an alternative means of access to the GMC Specialist Register. For more information about CESR, you can read our CESR blog and find the CESR Specific Guidance in your Specialty using the links below.

Applying for NHS positions?

To discuss the available NHS positions in your specialty, and the posts which your experience would be suitable for, please contact our specialist recruitment team.