I'm coming towards the end of my career. What are my options?

Dr Tella is an orthopaedic consultant who is nearing the end of her career. She is now thinking about whether, and for how long, to stay in practice.

She has thought about a number of options:

  • Retire from the NHS but do some NHS sessional work as a consultant for a few years.
  • Retire from the NHS and work in private practice as a consultant.
  • Retire completely from clinical practice but take up medico–legal work.
  • Retire completely and not do any work related to medicine.

Does Dr Tella need a licence to practise?

If Dr Tella decides to do sessional work in the NHS or work in private practice, she will need a licence. Dr Tella will need to revalidate, and she can use our connection tool to check who she has a connection to for revalidation. 

If Dr Tella decides to retire and not do any work, she does not need a licence. She has the option of either giving up her licence and keeping her registration, or giving up both her licence and registration. Dr Tella can find out more information about changing her status on the register on our website.

Whether Dr Tella needs a licence if she takes up medico-legal work will depend on the type of work she will be doing. For that reason, we can’t tell Dr Tella whether she needs a licence. She should talk to the solicitors that will be instructing her to see if they require her to hold a licence, and seek advice from her medical defence organisation or insurance provider about their requirements.

Considerations for doctors doing medico-legal work

Many doctors continue (or even start) their medico-legal practice after they have retired from their active clinical commitments. Indeed, the courts need access to experts who can advise on normal practice 10, 20 or 30 years ago – this is often the case for clinical negligence claims.

The Medical Defence Union advises doctors that they may need a licence to undertake certain aspects of medico-legal work (for example if they examine patients) or to secure insurance or indemnity for the work they do.

They say that, generally, providing expert opinion on historical matters of breach of duty or causation is unlikely to require a licence if opinions given are based on clinical records. The position is less clear when the work includes an expert assessing current condition or future prognosis, possibly requiring clinical examination of the patient concerned.

Where doctors are undertaking medico-legal work without a licence they should make sure that those instructing them are informed of this. They should also discuss the planned scope of their medico-legal work with their indemnity or insurance provider to check that indemnity can be extended to all aspects of their planned work.