A guide to the different types of GMC registration

Different types of GMC registration enable doctors to practise in different ways. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the four main types of registration, providing an overview of what each one allows a doctor to do and any prerequisites involved.

Prior to any type of GMC registration, applicants need to have certain qualifications. UK medical graduates use their medical degree to apply. Medical graduates from outside the European Economic Area can apply in a number of ways. The most common is a PLAB test (professional and linguistic assessment board).

The GMC is changing these requirements in 2022 with the introduction of a standard Medical Licensing Assessment (MLA) that UK students will take as part of their medical degree and non-EEA graduates will take in place of a PLAB. The GMC also hopes to require EEA graduates to take the MLA, though nothing is confirmed at present.

Provisional registration

Provisional registration allows trainee doctors to complete their Foundation Year 1 post (F1). Successful completion of the F1 year will allow them to claim a certificate of experience and apply for full registration (see more in the next section).

For the vast majority of doctors, provisional registration excludes all forms of service posts except for an approved UK F1 programme. In some rare cases, it is possible for F1s to take LAT posts (locum appointments for training), though the LAT post has to be tied to the foundation school’s recruitment and must be part of the programme that leads to a certificate of experience.

A doctor can only hold provisional registration for three years and 30 days (1,125 days). This is plenty of time for most doctors to complete their F1 year, which usually takes up to 12 months. If the provisional registration expires before a doctor has completed their F1 year, they will not be able to apply for it again. However, an extension could be possible if the registrant applies for one successfully.

The GMC recommends applying for provisional registration three months before the start of a doctor’s F1 year. The 1,125 days for which the registration is valid will begin when the regulator has processed the application.

Full registration with a licence to practise

Full registration with a licence to practise is the GMC’s authority for a doctor to practise medicine in the UK. A doctor must meet one of the following conditions in order to be eligible for full registration:

  1. Have completed a UK F1 year.
  2. Be an EC national with either a formal qualification listed in The Directive on Recognition of Professional Qualifications or an acceptable primary medical qualification from outside the EEA.
  3. Be a graduate with an acceptable primary medical qualification from outside the EEA and be able to prove that they have an acceptable level of medical experience by:
    • Passing the PLAB test;
    • Being sponsored by a GMC-approved sponsor;
    • Having an acceptable postgraduate qualification;
    • Being eligible for the GP or specialist register (see next sections).

Unlike provisional registration, full registration does not have a time limit. The only condition that doctors need to remain aware of is the requirement to go through a revalidation process every five years.

As well as enabling doctors to engage in full, unsupervised medical care, full registration is also required for doctors starting the second year of an approved foundation programme (F2).

Specialist registration

The Specialist Register is a list which includes every doctor who is allowed to take a fixed term, honorary or substantive consultant post in the NHS (with the exception of foundation trusts). A doctor on the Specialist Register will be listed with their qualified specialities and the date that they joined the register for each speciality. It is possible for a doctor to practise in a speciality without it being listed on the Specialist Register, but they usually need to be listed in at least one speciality before they can take any UK consultancy post.

There are too many different types of specialist registrations for us to list them in this guide. You can see the full range for yourself on the GMC’s website. On a general level, specialist applications involve entry to the register following the attainment of an approved qualification, by demonstrating skills and experience in a certain medical area or as a result of a specialist certificate issued between 1996 and 2007.

A final note on this type of registration is that specialist registration is a requirement for appointment to a consultancy position, not a requirement for ongoing employment. Some consultants are not listed on the Specialist Register simply because they have held their position since before 1997, when the register came into effect. However, it is possible for these doctors to apply for inclusion if they wish to do so.

GP registration

GP registration is a requirement for any doctor who wishes to be eligible for appointment to a general practitioner position in the UK. This requirement has applied to all GPs since 2006, including locums (though trainee doctors, like GP registrars are not required to be on the GP Register).

The application routes available to GPs are the same as those for specialists. Applications for the GP Register generally require doctors to have a specialist qualification or GP qualification training.

In addition to inclusion on the GP Register, doctors looking to work as GPs also need to join a Performers List and an Induction or Returner Scheme. You can find more information here.

If your GMC registration application has been rejected or you have reason to believe that it might be, contact Richard Nelson LLP today to receive impartial advice.


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