Licence to practise

What is a licence to practise?

If you are a doctor and want to practise medicine in the UK, you will need to hold a licence to practise along with the suitable type of registration for the work that you do. The licence to practise allows you to carry out certain activities such as prescribing medicines. Your status on the medical register shows if you hold a licence or not.

If you hold a licence, then you must revalidate.

If you're not practising medicine, but would like to be able to continue to show you are in good standing with us, you can choose to hold registration only. All doctors registered with us must follow our core guidance on professional standards, Good medical practice.

Can you tell me if I need to have a licence for the specific work that I do?

The Medical Act sets out a number of ‘privileges of registered practitioners’. It states that if you are a doctor who: 

  • works in the NHS
  • works in the naval, military or air service
  • works in a prison
  • writes prescriptions 
  • signs death certificates or other types of medical certificates such as cremation certificates 
  • or assesses the mental health of patients and recommends compulsory treatment

then you must hold a licence to practise. Doctors who don’t hold a licence cannot exercise these privileges.

The Act also outlines other activities where a doctor must hold a licence*. As well as the Medical Act, there are many other pieces of legislation that set out when a doctor must hold a licence.

In Good medical practice (paragraph 4) we say: 'You must follow the law, our guidance on professional standards, and other regulations relevant to your work’. It is your responsibility to make sure you comply with any legislation that requires you to hold a licence for the work you do.

We can’t provide advice on specific roles and whether a licence is required. 

What should I do if I am unsure whether I need a licence?

We recommend that as a first port of call you talk to your employer, those who are contracting your services, or the organisation where you are volunteering. In many cases, there should be a requirement listed in your contract if you need to hold a licence. 

We have developed a list of discussion points which may help you to work through any discussions that you have.

You should also: 

  • Talk to your medical defence organisation who may be able to offer you some advice.
  • Talk to your insurance or indemnity provider to check if they require you to hold a licence for the work you’ll be doing.
  • Contact your Royal College or Faculty who may be able to provide advice based on their experience of doctors working in similar roles, or highlight any professional norms or expectations to be aware of. 

We have a full guide to giving up and restoring your licence or registration and licence to practise resources to support you in deciding whether you need a licence.

*Part 6 (sections 46 to 48 inclusive) of the Medical Act set out the privileges of registered practitioners.