Employing a doctor
This page is to help employers to understand their obligations relating to employing and contracting with doctors.
- 1. Registration and licensing
- 2. Pre-employment checks
- 3. What and how to check
- 4. Post-employment checks
- 5. GMC reference numbers
- 6. Identity checks for doctors
You can find information about:
- Types of registration
- Routes to registration
in our general information about registration and licensing guidance.
1. Registration and licensing
Doctors need to be both registered and hold a licence to practise with us to practise medicine in the UK. It is illegal for doctors to work in clinical practice in the UK Health Service if they are not registered with a licence to practise.
The type of work for which doctors need registration with a licence to practise includes:
- working as a doctor in the UK health service
- prescribing prescription-only drugs
- signing medical certificates required for statutory purposes (death certificates, etc.).
Our website holds a complete list of the legal privileges and duties of registration.
Doctors who want to work in private practice in the UK must also be registered with a licence to practise with the GMC.
2. Pre-employment checks
You should always check that a doctor is both registered and holds a licence to practise with the GMC as part of your pre-employment checks. You should make these checks by using our dedicated service for employers and contracting authorities. Please contact us or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details of how to access this service.
A doctor's application for registration with a licence to practise must be granted before they can actually start working, and you must confirm their status on the register with the GMC before allowing the doctor to start work.
Do not rely on a locum agency to check a doctor's status on the register for you. If a doctor has previously been employed elsewhere in the UK, you still need to check their registration and licensing details, as their status on the register may have changed since they were last employed.
- Neither the due date of an annual retention fee nor an annual registration confirmation letter are evidence that a doctor is registered with a licence to practise.
- Preparing to take the PLAB test does not mean that a doctor can work in clinical practice in the UK health service. The doctor must hold registration with a licence to practise.
Specialists and GPs
Doctors appointed as consultants or GPs must also be on the Specialist or GP Register, as appropriate. (The only exceptions are doctors who held a consultant post (other than a locum consultant post) in oral and maxillo-facial surgery in the NHS immediately before 1 January 1997.)
The following certificates are not confirmation that a doctor is on the Specialist or GP Register:
- Certificates of Completion of Training (CCT)
- Certificates of Eligibility for Specialist Registration (CESR)
- Certificates of Eligibility for GP Registration (CEGPR)
3. What to check
When you contact us, you should check the following:
- Does the doctor hold registration?
- Does the doctor hold a licence to practise?
- Does the doctor's type of registration and their licence to practise allow them to undertake the post for which they are being employed?
- Do any conditions or restrictions apply?
- Is the doctor currently undergoing investigation?
- Does the GMC reference number the doctor has given you match the details shown on our online register?
- Are you sure of the doctor's identity?
- If the doctor is hoping to work as a GP in the UK health service, are they on the GP Register?*
- If the doctor is hoping to work as a consultant in the UK health service, are they on the Specialist Register?
*If you are checking to enter a GP onto a performers list, sight of the doctor’s Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) or Certificate of Eligibility for GP Registration (CEGPR) does not prove that a doctor practising as a GP in the NHS, other than a trainee, is on the GP Register.
Extra checks for employers
NHS Employers' has produced a set of ‘Employment Check Standards' which provides useful information about all the other pre-employment checks you should make.
You should also check that the doctor is proficient in English.
4. Post-employment checks
List of Registered Medical Practitioners
You should use our online register, the List of Registered Medical Practitioners, to make post-employment checks. The List of Registered Medical Practitioners is in the public domain and gives details of the doctor’s:
- GMC reference number
- given names
- surname (including any former name)
- status on the register, including whether the doctor holds a licence to practise
- any publicly available fitness to practise history since 20 October 2005
- year and place of primary medical degree
- date of provisional registration (where applicable)
- date of full registration (where applicable)
- entry on the Specialist and/or GP Register
- details of employment restrictions
- date annual retention fee payment is due
Doctors may be erased from the register for administrative reasons, such as failure to pay their annual retention fee or failure to maintain an effective registered address. For this reason we strongly recommend that you make regular checks of the doctor's status on the register for all doctors in your employment to minimise any unnecessary disruption to your services caused by such erasures. You can check these details by accessing the List of Registered Medical Practitioners.
Doctors who discover that they have been removed from the register under our administrative procedures should contact us urgently so that they can apply to be restored without delay.
Fitness to practise checks
We will automatically inform you if any doctor you are currently employing or contracting with is subject to a GMC investigation.
You should inform us if you judge that the fitness to practise of a doctor you are employing or contracting with may be impaired. Our 'Health Professional's Guide - How to Refer a Doctor to the GMC' page provides further information.
If you need other information relating to a doctor's registration or licence to practise which is not in the public domain, you should use our dedicated information service for employers.
Please contact us or email email@example.com for details of how to access this service.
5. GMC reference numbers
When doctors first make contact with the GMC they are given a seven digit reference number which they keep throughout their professional career. This reference number is therefore a unique identifier.
Checking the GMC reference number
Having a number does not mean that the doctor is currently on the register, so it is important that you check the doctor's registration and licence to practise details with the GMC. You also need to do this to ensure that the GMC reference number you have been given is correct, and that it belongs to the doctor that you want to employ. Under no circumstances should a doctor use another doctor's GMC reference number.
Displaying names and GMC reference numbers
Paragraph 64 of Good medical practice requires doctors to make their reference numbers available to enable patients and the public to identify them easily.
We look to employers to help doctors comply with this requirement, by displaying their GMC reference numbers wherever possible - for example on stationery, door signs and name plaques.
View our guidance to doctors about names and GMC reference numbers.
6. Checking a doctor's identity
We ask all new applicants for registration with a licence to practise, or those restoring their name to the register, to attend an identity check as part of the application process. This includes taking their photograph, which we can provide to employers to confirm the identity and registration and licence to practise status of the doctor.
A certificate of registration, proof of entry on the register letter, or confirmation that a doctor is registered with or without a licence to practise with the GMC is not proof of a doctor's identity. You must undertake your own identity checks when employing a doctor, for example asking for their original passport or an original EEA identity card.
We hold photograph records for:
- All UK graduates who were granted registration after 1 July 2005
- All doctors taking the PLAB test from 1 May 2004
- All EEA doctors who were granted registration after 1 April 2005
- All doctors restored to the register from 1 June 2005
- All other newly registered doctors from 1 August 2005
You can check the photo id held by the GMC for doctors by contacting us and asking for a copy of the photo held on our system. Please ensure that you provide an email address or fax number to which we can send the photo. We aim to respond to all enquiries within five working days.
If you have any doubts about a doctor's identity please contact us.