Many of you post-PLAB 2 may be wondering what all you can do to boost your job application so that you can land the job of your dream and word on the street is that a clinical attachment in the UK could be your saving grace. So let us discuss in depth what exactly a clinical attachment could entail and how you can go about landing one as an international medical graduate (IMG).

What is a Clinical Attachment in the UK?

A clinical attachment may also go by the name ‘observership’. Essentially what you would be doing is following a team of healthcare staff at a hospital in a department you’d be interested in working in the future. Ideally, this would allow you to understand how that particular specialty or department worked, as well as get an idea of the NHS infrastructure as a whole.

This can also be a good way to get a small refresher of what the medical field is like if you’ve had a significant gap or just feel nervous about starting in the NHS.

A clinical attachment should not be mistaken for shadowing. A shadowing period can be instated when you undertake a new job to help you adjust after speaking to HR/the department head.

Should I do a Clinical Attachment?

This should be a balanced decision made after consideration of your situation and expectations. While many feel that a clinical attachment in the UK is a golden ticket to getting a job, it may not always hold true. A hospital is under no obligation to offer you a post just because you have done an attachment with them.

What could be of use to you is that you can speak to the experience of understanding the NHS and the specialty you are interviewing in to show your willingness and dedication. It may also give you a boost of confidence if you’ve been out of practice for some time.

Free clinical attachments are rare, so keep this in mind as your proceed. At the same time, don’t shell out a great deal of money for an attachment; there is no hard and fast rule that without one you will not get a job.

What can I expect from a Clinical Attachment?

This can vary greatly depending on what you’ve signed up to do. Some hospitals may only allow you to take on ‘observer’ status, especially if you do not yet have GMC registration (most clinical attachments come with the stipulation of having registration, but a few will take on those who have at least passed PLAB 2). Typically clinical attachments in the UK last from 4-6 weeks.

You can more or less expect to start out with limited responsibilities under the watchful eye of a consultant who may then slowly delegate minor tasks to you as they see fit such as:

  • Clerking (admitting) patients
  • Attending ward rounds
  • Speaking to patients/taking their history
  • Directly observed clinical examination of patients
  • Observing surgical procedures


How do I apply for an Attachment as an IMG?

Contact Human Resources (HR)

The easiest way would be to contact the HR of any hospital you’d be interested in pursuing the clinical attachment at.

Email a consultant

If you personally know a consultant in the department you wish to be in, that would make your work easier.


Just by typing in ‘clinical attachments in UK’ or ‘NHS clinical attachments in <city>’ will get you many results.

Ask a Friend or Colleague

If you know someone who has done an attachment, ask them how they got it. Otherwise, you can post in the Forum for International Doctors in the NHS Facebook group and ask others there.

That being said, here are a few attachments we found online after a quick cursory Google:

As we said before, each attachment comes with its own set of stipulations and criteria, so make sure you read every part of the application and know what you are agreeing to.

Please note you will need a valid UK visa in order to undertake a clinical attachment. If you are not already in the UK on one, you can apply for a standard visitor visa for this purpose.

How can I prepare for a Clinical Attachment in the UK?

If you feel your medical knowledge is a little rusty and in need of a tune up, it’s not a bad idea to prepare for your clinical attachment. If you’re fresh out of PLAB 2, you will have a fairly decent idea of what to expect, but we’d also recommend the following books to stay ahead of the curve:

It’s also a good idea to brush up on common cases seen in the specialty you intend on doing the attachment in as well as checking out our tips on what to expect on your first day.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Good luck!

8 thoughts on “How to find a Clinical Attachment in the UK for IMGs”

  1. Thankyou for clearing so many confusions. I wanted to know if I can do any job to finance my stay in uk as i wait for plab 2 exam or the results?

    1. You can’t work in the UK without a work visa. It is illegal if you are found working in a visit visa and can result in a ban if you are caught.

  2. Hi there,
    I would like to if it is necessary to pass PLAB1 in order to go through a clinical observership. I have completed and passed the IELTS exam, however, I cannot register for the PLAB 1 exam as all the seats have been booked out. I would like to go for an attachment if that will help.

    1. Clinical observership is managed locally by the hospital itself. There is no set criteria on what is necessary or what is not. You have to keep looking and ask each of them what do they want specifically for the observership.

  3. I’m going to take part in PLAB2 exam and in the mean time I want to do a clinical attachment.Do I need to take TB clearance certificate with police clearance certificate for attachment?

  4. You guys are too good at what you do. Keep up the good work.
    Could I ask if there are oppurtunitites for international students to do their core rotations in the UK?

    1. Thanks.
      Your medical school has to have affiliations/contact with the medical school in the UK. Otherwise it’s difficult to arrange individually.

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