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Medical training of UK doctors and specialists

Becoming a doctor in the United Kingdom involves study at university for a Degree in Medicine known as a Bachelor of Medicine or BM; the undergraduate course usually takes five years.  It has a core curriculum which is overseen by the General Medical Council (GMC).  To get into medical school, entrants must achieve high grades at ‘A’ level (or equivalent) and show evidence of their commitment to medicine, for example by doing work experience or voluntary work. 

The GMC revised the undergraduate curriculum in 1993 and the programme is now an integration of the former ‘preclinical’ and ‘clinical’ courses (which involved two years preclinical and a three year clinical course where students worked in hospital wards under supervision) and includes dedicated time for other crucial competencies such as communication skills, problem-based learning and practical clinical tasks. 

Upon successful completion of their degree doctors receive their primary medical qualification and are given one of the following abbreviations to denote this:  MB, MBBS, MBChB, BM and BCh.

Postgraduate study

In 2005, a new two year Foundation Programme was introduced by the Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) initiative within the NHS for trainee doctors - United Kingdom.  Involving a series of placements within a variety of specialties and healthcare settings it provides a thorough grounding in practical medicine and the opportunity to develop core clinical skills.  Placing more emphasis on communication, team working and IT skills within an NHS hospital, the first year, known as Foundation Year 1 (F1) is equivalent to the old pre-registration house officer (PRHO) year and the second year, or Foundation Year 2 (F2) is equivalent to the first year as a senior house officer (SHO).

Consultant and specialist training

After doctors have undertaken Foundation Years 1 and 2 (the old PRHO and SHO) they can undertake further specialist training in Senior House Officer (SHO) and then Specialist Registrar (SpR) posts.  SpR training usually takes around four to six years, depending on the specialty.  New training programmes for specialists are planned from August 2007.

The Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board (PMETB) is responsible for all postgraduate medical training in the UK, including general practice.  PMETB awards Certificates of Completion of Training (CCTs) to doctors who reach the necessary level of competence to be included on the Specialist Register which is maintained by the GMC

General Practitioners (GPs)

Postgraduate training to become a General Practitioner (GP) involves the two-year Foundation Programme and at least three years' further training in posts approved by PMETB including a minimum of 12 months' vocational training (with this amount due to increase) as a GP Registrar.  The PMETB awards CCTs to general practitioners.  

In April 2006 the GMC introduced a new Register of GPs for doctors who have completed the appropriate training and all doctors working in general practice in the NHS (with the exception of doctors in training such as GP Registrars), must register.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

The education and training doesn’t stop once the text books have been closed and the final exam taken.  After years of formal study doctors are expected to keep their knowledge and skills up to date through Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programmes.  CPD helps doctors keep abreast of the constantly evolving world of medicine, changes to the profession or their environment and helps them to maintain good medical practice.

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Doctor qualifications and abbreviations

Abbreviation

Qualification or full description

BCh

Bachelor of Surgery

BChir

Bachelor of Surgery

BM

Bachelor of Medicine

BMedSci

Bachelor of Medical Sciences

BPharm

Bachelor of Pharmacy

BS

Bachelor of Surgery

BSc

Bachelor of Science

ChB

Bachelor of Surgery

CPH

Certificate in Public Health

DA

Diploma in Anaesthetics

DCh

Doctor of Surgery

DCH

Diploma in Child Health

DCP

Diploma in Clinical Pathology

DCPath

Diploma College of Pathologists

DDS

Doctor of Dental Surgery

DFM

Diploma in Forensic Medicine

DGM

Diploma in Geriatric Medicine

DGO

Diploma in Gynaecology and Obstetrics

Dip GU Med

Diploma in Genitourinary Medicine

DMR

Diploma in Medical Radiology

DO

Diploma in Ophthalmology

DObst

Diploma in Obstetrics

DPath

Diploma in Pathology

DPhil

Doctor of Philosophy

DPhysMed

Diploma in Physical Medicine

DPH

Diploma in Public Health

DPM

Diploma in Psychological Medicine

DR

Diploma in Radiology

DRCOG

Diploma Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

DRCPath

Diploma Royal College of Pathologists

DS

Doctor of Surgery

FFA

Fellow Faculty of Anaesthetists

FFCM

Fellow Faculty of Community Medicine

FFFP

Fellow of the Faculty of Family Planning

FFPath

Fellow Faculty of Pathology

FFPHM

Fellow Faculty of Public Health Medicine

FFR

Fellow Faculty of Radiologists

FRCA

Fellow Royal College of Anaesthetists

FRCGP

Fellow Royal College of General Practitioners

FRCOG

Fellow Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

FRCOphth

Fellow College of Ophthalmology

FRCPath

Fellow Royal College of Pathologists

FRCPS

Fellow Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons

FRCPsych

Fellow Royal College of Psychiatrists

FRCR

Fellow Royal College of Radiologists

FRCS

Fellow Royal College of Surgeons

FRCSI

Fellow Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland

FRS

Fellow of the Royal Society

FRSH

Fellow Royal Society of Health

GP

General Practitioner

LMS

Licentiate of Medicine & Surgery

LRCP

Licentiate Royal College of Physicians

LRCPI

Licentiate Royal College of Physicians of Ireland

LRCPS

Licentiate Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons

LRCS

Licentiate Royal College of Surgeons

LRCSI

Licentiate Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland

MA

Master of Arts

MBAcA

Member British Acupuncture Association

MBBCh

Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery

MBBS

Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery

MBChB

Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery

MCh, MChir

Master of Surgery

MChOrth

Master of Orthopaedic Surgery

MClinPscychol

Master of Clinical Psychology

MD

Doctor of Medicine

MFFP

Member Faculty of Family Planning

MFOM

Member Faculty of Occupational Medicine

MFPHM

Member Faculty of Public Health Medicine

MMed

Master of Medicine

MMedSc

Master of Medical Science

MPhil

Master of Philosophy

MRCGP

Member Royal College of General Practitioners

MRCOG

Member Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

MRCP

Member Royal College of Physicians

MRCPath

Member Royal College of Pathologists

MRCPI

Member Royal College of Physicians of Ireland

MRCPsych

Member Royal College of Psychiatrists

MRCS

Member Royal College of Surgeons

MS

Master of Surgery

MSc

Master of Science

PRHO

Pre-Registration House Officer (now replaced by Foundation Year 1)

PhD

Doctor of Philosophy

SHO

Senior House Officer

SpR

Specialist Registrar

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