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Licence to practise top tips

These are common enquiries we receive from doctors about holding a licence to practise. 

We can’t tell you whether you need a licence for the work you’ll be doing, and the advice here isn’t definitive and doesn’t constitute legal advice. It is intended to provide guidance on the steps you can take to help you decide whether you need a licence.


I am taking a career break

We usually advise doctors who are taking a career break for longer than twelve months and not carrying out any work to give up their licence.

If you decide to do any work during your break, no matter how little, you must check whether a licence is needed for the work you want to undertake.


I am going on maternity or paternity leave

You should normally keep your licence if you’re going on maternity or paternity leave. Many employers require you to hold a licence to be able to receive your benefits.

You should speak to your responsible officer or suitable person about your revalidation during the period you’ll be off. And if you’re going to be taking over 12 months off, then speak to your employer.

I am a doctor in training

To keep your national training number (NTN), you must hold a licence to practise.

You should normally keep your licence whist you are in training. You must speak to your LETB or Deanery for advice before you give up your licence. They can give you advice if you are thinking about taking an out of programme break, a career break or going on maternity or paternity leave.

The Gold Guide (A Reference Guide for Postgraduate Specialty Training in the UK) gives further information for doctors in specialty training.


I am going to work overseas

If you are going to work wholly overseas for longer than 12 months, you do not need to hold a licence. The licence gives you rights and privileges in the UK that do not apply in any other country in the world.

You must comply with the regulatory requirements in the country where you will be working.

If you continue to hold a contract with an employer or organisation in the UK whilst you are overseas you must speak to them before giving up your licence.


I sign certificates

If your role involves signing death certificates, cremation forms or other types of medical certificates then you will need to hold a licence.

There is lots of legislation about signing certificates and you must make sure you comply with any requirements.

You can find advice and guidance from these organisations:

Signing death certificates and cremation forms – the Medical Defence Union

Medical practitioners: guidance on completing cremation forms – the Ministry of Justice

I am an appraiser for doctors who do not have a connection for revalidation

If you are an appraiser for a doctor who does not have a connection; to a designated body or suitable person for revalidation, then you must hold a licence to be able to carry out their appraisal.

I am doing voluntary work

You should discuss with the organisation and your insurance or indemnity provider whether you will need a licence for any of the work you will be doing. Providing services on a voluntary or charitable basis does not automatically mean you do not need a licence. It is the nature of the work you’ll be carrying out that determines whether one is needed.

We recommend that there is a clear job description which includes whether a licence is required. We have created an employer and doctor discussion list you can use to talk to the organisation about this.

I do medico-legal work 

The person instructing you may set requirements for whether you need to hold a licence to practise. It is very important you’re clear with them what your licence status is and you should inform them if it changes.

Your medical defence organisation may be able to provide you with advice. And you should check with your insurance or indemnity provider whether you’ll be covered for the type of work you’ll be doing.

The Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine provide some advice on this area.

I am an NHS GP

You will automatically be removed from any performers list if you give up your licence. Talk to your NHSE local office or the relevant Health Board before you give up your licence.

You might also want to ask them about how to get back on the list at a later date if you do give up your licence.

I am an examiner for a college or faculty

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has agreed minimum requirements for colleges and faculties in relation to examiner selection, training, performance management, duration of appointment and collection of E&D data.

They have published the requirements on their website.

I work in a teaching or research role

You should check with those who are contracting your services to see if they require you to hold a licence. Often it is part of your contract to hold a licence.

For some doctors working in a research role, they may also have an honorary contract with the NHS and this might affect whether they need to hold a licence.

I am a medical student

As a medical student, you do not need to hold registration with the GMC.

We work closely with medical schools and foundation schools to make sure you have the right registration in time to start your Foundation year (F1) and Foundation year (F2) training.

During your F1 year, you need to hold provisional registration with a licence. And during your F2 year, you need to hold full registration with a licence.

Read more about the different types of registration.