Employing a doctor

This page is to help employers to understand their obligations relating to employing and contracting with doctors.


Registration and licensing

By law, doctors need to be registered with a licence to practise to practise medicine in the UK.

As an employer, you must make sure that doctors you employ have the appropriate registration for their type of post or practice, and have a licence to practise if their work requires them to do so. Find out more about the licence to practise

See the privileges and duties of doctors in the UK for more details.

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 using our online register.

Do not rely on a locum agency to check a doctor's status on the register for you. If a doctor has been employed somewhere else 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

Some doctors must also be on the Specialist or GP register.

  • GP Registration is required to be appointed as a GP
  • Specialist Registration is required to be appointed to a substantive, honorary or fixed-term consultant post in non-foundation trust UK health services

(The only exceptions are doctors ho 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)
  • Certificate of Completion of Specialist Training (CCST)
  • Certificate of Prescribed/Equivalent Experience
  • Any certificate issue by the Specialist Training Authority (STA)
  • Certificate of Specialist Training (CST)

What to check

When you search our online register, 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, warnings or restrictions apply?
  • 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 and the relevant performers list?
  • If the doctor is hoping to work as a consultant in the UK health service, are they on the Specialist Register?

If a doctor has given the impression that they hold a licence, but your checks find that they do not, please contact us immediately.

If someone is claiming to be a registered doctor, and your checks find that they aren’t registered, please read our guidance and contact us.

Extra checks for employers

You should check that the doctor is proficient in English.

NHS Employers' has produced a set of guidance on employment checks, which includes:

along with information about all the other pre-employment checks you should make.

You may wish to find out who the doctor’s current Responsible Officer is as you might need to give them some evidence or feedback for the doctor’s annual whole practice appraisal.

Administrative checks

Doctors may be erased from the register for administrative reasons, such as failure to pay their annual retention fee or maintain their current address. We strongly recommend that you make regular checks of your doctors' status using the online register to avoid disruption to your services. If you have access to ESR or the online register download service you can use them to check for notifications of changes in registration status for your doctors.

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 tell you if a doctor you employ or contract with is subject to a GMC investigation.

You should tell us if you are concerned about the fitness to practise of a doctor you employ or contract with.

Other information

If you need other information about a doctor's registration or licence to practise which is not in the public domain, or you cannot find it on the online register, you should use our dedicated information service for employers.

Please contact us or email registrationhelp@gmc-uk.org for details.

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 their 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 us. You also need to make sure you have the correct GMC reference number, and that it belongs to the doctor you want to employ.

Displaying names and GMC reference numbers

A doctor should share their reference number with patients and the public, in line with Paragraph 64 of Good medical practice.

You can help your doctors do this by displaying their GMC reference numbers wherever possible - for example on stationery, door signs and name plates.

View our guidance to doctors about names and GMC reference numbers.

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 the registration and licence status of the doctor.

A registration certificate, 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 make your own identity checks when you employ a doctor, for example ask them for their original passport or an original EEA identity card.

We hold photographs of:

  • All UK graduates granted registration after 1 July 2005
  • All doctors taking the PLAB test from 1 May 2004
  • All EEA doctors 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 contact us for a copy of the photo held on our system. Please give us an email address or fax number where we can send the photo. We aim to respond to all enquiries within four working days.

If you have any doubts about a doctor's identity please contact us.

Employing a doctor with restrictions on their practice

A doctor with restrictions on their practice is required to disclose their publicly-available restrictions to you and their Responsible Officer. You can also check on the online List of Registered Medical Practitioners if the doctor you’re employing has fitness to practise restrictions.

Where a doctor has restrictions or requirements on their practice, you (and/or their Responsible Officer) must monitor a doctor’s compliance with GMC conditions and undertakings, to make sure that the doctor’s return to practice is appropriately and safely managed.

If the doctor is working in a non-NHS setting, we will consider whether the post and/or employing or contracting organisation has an appropriate management structure and clinical governance framework to provide the necessary level of oversight or, where appropriate, supervision.

We have guidance for Responsible Officers about their role in supporting doctors with restrictions on their practice.

If your organisation is not a designated body and you therefore do not have a Responsible Officer, the doctor needs to identify a person with the necessary experience to fulfil the role and support their return to work.  We must approve such an arrangement before they can start working.