Switching to GP Training

Changes in the NHS over recent years, especially in light of the pandemic, means that the focus is increasingly on population health, primary and community care services.

Due to the changes outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan, we are receiving many more applications from those training in other specialties, trust grade doctors and consultants, who want to build on their skills and experience, learn to adapt and become a GP. 

You may have reached the stage in your career you like the thought of not just concentrating on one pathology - where you can get to know your patients personally, people refer to you as "my doctor", look beyond illness to lifestyle and want to maximise the balance of variety and specialisation.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) points out that the role includes:

  • diagnosing a wide range of undifferentiated health problems
  • treating illness in community and home settings
  • responding to risk safely and effectively
  • managing long-term conditions
  • co-ordinating care with a range of carers, specialists, providers and other professionals 

Your questions answered

We understand that it is not so easy to find information when you have moved on from the normal training cycle so we have provided answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQs) and some examples from people who made the change.

I’m thinking about switching specialty or retraining to be a GP. How do I apply?

You will find a range of useful information in the applicant guidance, including recruitment round dates. All applicants will need to apply through the Oriel recruitment portal. There are typically 2 application rounds a year. The 2nd round advertises any remaining vacancies for an August training start. 

You will need to tick the relevant box (ATC or CCT(CP)) in the training application process on Oriel if you would like any relevant previous experience to be considered.

Is there an age limit for GP training and what if I’ve been out of medical practice for a while?

The good news is there’s no cap on the age you can apply for GP Specialty Training - which would be unlawful. In fact, life and your previous experience is likely to be a bonus in practice.

How you get back into training when you’re possibly some years away from a "hands on" medical role is inevitably not going to be quite as straightforward, but don’t let that put you off.

It's best to get in touch with us and discuss your circumstances, either by reaching out to your local office or deanery or emailing the GPNRO applications team for advice. We can work with you to find out what options might be best suited to you and help satisfy the GP specialty training criteria outlined in the applicant guidance. Take the current F2 standalone scheme, as an example which will be a good option for some to gain experience and achieve foundation competences.

I’m currently training in another specialty but would like to switch to a GP training programme. Will some of my previous experience count?

If you have a current National Training Number (NTN), have completed at least a year (whole time equivalent) in a GMC-approved specialty training programme and progressed satisfactorily, it may be possible to combine some of the capabilities you have already achieved with your GP training. Combined Training usually allows 6 months of previous relevant training to contribute, for you to follow the Accreditation of Transferable Capabilities (ATC) pathway.

Specific eligibility criteria apply so if you are interested in this pathway, you can find more information on the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) website.

ATC programmes cannot be applied for retrospectively so you must tick the relevant box during your application for GP training to trigger the full application process.

'I'm a trust grade doctor/consultant or have postgraduate overseas training or qualifications, will my experience be taken into account?

Combined Training has a CCT (Combined Programme [CP]) pathway for doctors who wish to combine part of the CCT programme with posts held earlier in their career which were not approved for general practice training. These may be formal training posts or substantive paid roles.

To apply for a CCT(CP), you must tick the box during your application for GP training to trigger the full application process. It may be possible for up to 12 months of your experience to contribute. More information can be found on the RCGP website.

Can I choose the precise location and hospital / GP practice?

This is possible in some regions of the UK but not all. Contact the GPNRO team for further information.

I’ve been thinking about retraining. How will this affect my salary?

You will need to contact NHS Employers for advice or look at their FAQs. The latest terms and conditions are on the NHS Employers website. Pay protection is covered on pages 17 to 19, sections 48 to 61. Point 58 outlines "Pay protection on re-entering training from a career grade".

Anyone with continuous service in a career grade post or posts for at least 13 months immediately prior to re-entering training will be eligible for pay protection for as long as it is more favourable.

Once you have received advice from NHS Employers, it may be helpful to discuss options with your local office or deanery.

Case studies

Page last reviewed: 4 March 2022

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