I have been working as a Consultant in Radiology in the UK for the past 3 years. However, this was not a planned move and happened just by chance. I had successfully finished my FRCR during residency simply for an additional degree. One fine day, I got an email from an agency asking for my CV for a potential job in the UK. One thing led to another, and before I knew it I had given a Skype interview and was offered a job in the next couple of weeks. While I felt great, I had very little idea about what was the work in UK like, and also had a few myths and misconceptions which I hope to clear in this write-up.
PAY: I was of the impression that pay-scale in the UK was very good. Although it sounds good on paper, if you consider the expenses (UK is very expensive) and taxes, the amount you save is way less than what you would earn in say Australia or the US.
QUALITY OF WORK: While studying for FRCR, I always thought that work in UK would be high end and there would be a lot to learn. But work in the UK is fairly basic for most radiologists, and if your objective is to learn (or for that matter earn), UK may not be the right place for you.
ADVANTAGES OF WORKING IN UK: Having said this, there certainly are advantages of working in the UK. The life is relaxed (a 9-5 job for 5 days a week), less litigation worries as compared to States (you are covered by NHS indemnity), and great respect from colleagues.
Pathways of getting Full registration
You need Full registration with License to practice to start working in the UK. It’s a straight forward procedure and can be checked on the GMC (General Medical Council) website (https://www.gmc-uk.org/). It usually takes less than a month to complete. The basic qualification you need for this is either PLAB or FRCR.
FRCR- Completing FRCR is the best and the easiest way of getting into the UK. However, a big barrier is the wait time to get a slot for the final FRCR exam which can be upto 1-2 years. Furthermore, if you fail, you go back to the end of the line and have to wait for another couple of years. So if you have not started the FRCR process and want to apply fast, I would advise that you give PLAB first.
PLAB- Although I have never given PLAB myself, many of my colleagues have given it and apparently its quite straightforward and can be finished in 6-8 months once you get rid of the mental barrier for it. Its more a test of your communication skills and is not supposed to be as difficult as USMLE. Once you finish you PLAB and get a job in the UK, you are exempt from the waiting list for FRCR as an NHS contributor and hence can finish FRCR much faster.
What job can I get
Locum Consultant: With Full Registration and FRCR you can apply for a Locum Consultant position. There are many locum agencies who will search jobs and setup interviews for you, which are usually on Skype. These are free as they charge the employer. You can also apply directly at the NHS jobs website. The problem with the Locum position is that you will need to keep switching jobs every year till you finish your CESR paperwork (read ahead), although it is quite easy to get a new job once you are in the system.
To get a Substantive (permanent) position, you need to complete a process called CESR (Certificate of Eligibility for Specialist Registration) with GMC (this is like board certification in US). This requires a lot of paperwork, and you will need to work in the UK for couple of years for completing it.
Specialty Doctor: This position is one step short of a consultant position. However, you can get a substantive position with full registration without needing CESR with this route. It is also much easier to get this post especially if you haven’t successfully completed FRCR. The benefit is that you can work in the same place without the pressure of changing jobs; do note that you will have slightly less responsibility as well. However the pay will be less as well (37,000-70,000 per annum); you can negotiate and easily get the higher end of this pay range.
WHAT TO DO ONCE YOU ARE IN THE UK
As soon as you get an offer and join as a locum consultant or specialty doctor, check up the documents needed for CESR registration at the following link: https://www.gmc-uk.org/doctors/registration_applications/ssg.asp
It is important to start the process of obtaining the documents as early as possible as it is a long process, and you do not want to delay securing your Substantive position due to this reason. You will need a lot of paper work such as reports, job offer, performance review etc from the last 5 years of your work and will also need some paperwork from India as well. Start collecting them slowly from day one itself and try to build on what you are lacking as per the requirements. Although it will seem like a mountain when you look at it initially, once you start work you will also get guidance from some of your colleagues who have finished this process and it will slowly start to make sense.
In summary, know what you are getting into when you plan to work in the UK. Check out the fastest route possible to get into the system (PLAB vs FRCR). If you plan to settle in the UK, start planning on finishing your CESR paperwork from the day you join as a locum consultant or specialty doctor.
– Nameet Hattangadi
Consultant Head and Neck Radiologist, BHR University Hospitals, London
PS: You can check our other blogs on training abroad in our section ‘Beyond the Shores’.