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Clinical Attachments for IMG Doctors

Clinical attachments in the UK are a great way for IMG (International Medical Graduates) doctors to understand what it is like to work for the NHS. These are safe environments where you will have no clinical responsibilities, allowing you to develop understanding and exposure to UK medical practice and understand what it is like to be a healthcare professional. During this form of NHS work experience, you will be able to observe and (to an extent) participate in the duties of an NHS healthcare professional, under the supervision of a supervising consultant such as a doctor. 

Many IMG doctors participate in a clinical attachment programme just before or after they have passed their PLAB 2 exam. By this point many IMGs have already paid to come to the UK for the exam and find it cost efficient to complete an attachment in order to gain a practical experience of the NHS at the same time.

If you already have a clinical attachment, read about how to make the most from it here.


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What is a clinical attachment?

A clinical attachment is a supervised placement – usually in a Hospital – where an IMG doctor has no clinical responsibility, but would be expected to complete tasks similar to a UK medical student. Sometimes clinical attachments can also be known as ‘observerships’, as they are a great opportunity for you to observe working in a speciality.

These are especially popular with IMGs who are already in the UK to take their medical exams, as they are granted accessibility to the NHS during this period. This experience is not essential, but it is very beneficial for people who are looking to become doctors in the NHS once they complete their medical education.  

During this form of work experience you may participate in:

  • history taking (under supervision)
  • observing surgeries or outpatient clinics
  • performing basic physical examinations (but no intimate examination) under direct supervision

These attachments are unpaid and usually last between 4 to 6 weeks.

Hospitals will normally ask you to pay a fee for a clinical attachment – usually in the region of £400-500. This is to cover the costs for the administrative work they need to complete in order for you to participate in the attachment.

Am I eligible for a clinical attachment?

The criteria for eligibility can vary for each clinical attachment, so please check with the hospital before applying. Usually hospitals will ask for:

  • A DBS (disclosure barring service) check – this is to check for any criminal convictions or offences
  • Proof of identity e.g. passport
  • Appropriate references from your referees
  • IELTS or OET certificate (to check your English language abilities)
  • Occupational Health clearance
  • Attendance at the trust induction before starting

UK clinical attachments are popular with international medical graduates and postgraduates as well as qualified international doctors who want to gain some hands-on NHS work experience. 

How do I find a clinical attachment?

The most common way to find a clinical attachment in the NHS is to simply search the internet for ‘trusts running clinical attachments!’. Alternatively, you may already know a friend or relative working in the NHS who may help you apply for a clinical attachment, if their trust runs these placements.

Below are a list of some trusts that run clinical attachments:

Applying for a clinical attachment

Every hospital will have its own application form which you need to complete when applying. This requires you to input personal data which shows you are eligible to take on a UK clinical attachment. It is important to bear in mind that these placements are usually competitive and so any extra information you can provide to the trust during your application process may boost your chances of being accepted.

It is therefore usually helpful to provide a covering letter explaining why you would be interested in the clinical attachment and what you hope to achieve from the placement. An up to date CV is also useful for the hospital and your clinical supervisor to understand your prior experience. Our blog on How to create a Powerful CV can help if you don’t already have one.

Do I need to do a clinical attachment?

Clinical attachments are not mandatory in order to come and work in the NHS. However many IMG doctors find that these placements can enhance their applications when applying for jobs, as they can demonstrate a) proactiveness and initiative, and b) an understanding of the NHS. Depending on your future career plans you may also gain experience in a speciality that you hope to apply for in the future.

How we can help you pass your Exams

To help pass PLAB 1, click for our resources click here.
To help pass PLAB 2, click for our resources click here.
To help pass MSRA, click for our resources click here.

I wish you all the success in receiving a clinical attachment if you decide to apply for one. Further information can be found on the GMC website.

Author Bio — Dr Aman Arora

Dr Aman Arora is a GP who is now 100% committed to transforming medical education, helping doctors across the globe to ace their exams and enhance their careers. He is proud to hold FRCGP (Fellow of Royal College of General Practitioners). Previous roles include:

  • GP Training Programme Director
  • NHS GP Appraiser
  • GMC PLAB 2 Examiner
  • GP Recruitment Examiner
  • GP Recruitment Question-writer
  • HEWM IMG Board Member
  • HEWM Advanced MRCGP AKT Trainer

Author Bio — Dr Pooja Arora

Dr Pooja Arora is a GP with a background in Medical Politics, passionately focusing on improving the opportunities and working conditions for junior doctors. Previous roles include:

  • Vice Chair Birmingham LMC
  • BMA Council Member
  • BMA General Practitioners Committee elected representative 
  • BMA Sessional GP Committee elected representative 
  • BMA National Deputy Policy lead for working at scale
  • HEE GP Ambassador
  • HEE GP Stage 3 Assessor
  • RCGP Midland Faculty AiT representative

* Blogs written by Dr Aman and Dr Pooja Arora are not for professional, financial or medical advice. Please seek appropriate professional, legal or financial advice where appropriate *


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