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Information on the Specialist Register

The Specialist Register (a register of doctors who are eligible for appointment as substantive, fixed term or honorary consultants in the health service in the UK) was introduced on 1 January 1997. From 1 January 1997, all doctors taking up a post as a substantive, fixed term or honorary consultant in the health service in the UK, are required to be on the Specialist Register.

The GMC is required by law to maintain the Specialist Register. Since 1 January 1997 a doctor may not take up appointment to any post as a consultant in the National Health Service (NHS) unless their name is included in the Specialist Register. An exception to this requirement is any doctor who held a post as a consultant in oral and maxillo-facial surgery in the NHS immediately before 1 January 1997.

Doctors need to apply for entry onto the Specialist Register and meet the criteria set down in legislation. Some will have completed a period of formal specialist training in the UK certified by the GMC, or the organisations previously responsible for this, the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board (PMETB, 2005-2010) or its predecessor the Specialist Training Authority (STA, 1996-2005). Others will have been awarded qualifications in specialised medicine by an appropriate competent authority in other Member States of the European Economic Area. Others still will have been found eligible by the PMETB, the STA, or the GMC, following an assessment of the specialist training undertaken and/or the specialist qualifications awarded in the UK or elsewhere.

Because entry onto the Specialist Register is a requirement for appointment (rather than employment) as a consultant in the NHS, some established NHS consultants are not entered onto the Specialist Register - simply because they were appointed before 1 January 1997 when this requirement came into effect. Other doctors who are, or were, eligible to apply for entry onto the Specialist Register may have chosen not to apply for entry because they did not, or do not, intend to seek appointment as a consultant in the NHS.

The GMC operates a scheme for what are known as 'existing specialists', which enables doctors who are not entered onto the Specialist Register, but who were appointed as consultants in the NHS or in the UK armed forces before 1 January 1997, to apply for entry onto the Specialist Register. We have produced a document with details of the scheme (pdf) for you to download.