Code of practice

The Code of Practice lays out the agreed set of information that recruiting organisations and employers should provide to doctors in training at each stage of the recruitment process, the first post and subsequent rotations.

Location: England Scotland Northern Ireland
Audience: Junior doctors
Updated: Friday 17 May 2019
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What this guidance provides

  • the code of practice for England, Northern Ireland and Scotland
  • a list of information that should be provided and the expected time frames in each nation
  • a glossary of terms
  • what to do if you don't receive information within the deadline.


Key points and full code of practice

We have highlighted some of the key points, but read the full codes below for details about exactly what to expect and when.

  • The code of practice applies to recruitment to foundation programmes, core and specialty training, LAT and GP training. In England and Northern Ireland, it also applies to recruitment to academic training. 
  • Recruiting organisations and employers are obliged to provide detailed programme information to doctors in training. This means that doctors will have enough information on the programmes and posts they are applying for, where they will be working and their conditions of employment. This includes details of supervisors to contact if and when needed.
  • Foundation programmes information will be available on the UK Foundation Programme application system (Oriel), as well as on the SMT (Scottish Medical Training) website, for at least eight weeks before doctors submit their preferences.
  • In Scotland, NES (NHS Education for Scotland) and employing boards are responsible for recruiting to most specialties. However, for some specialties the responsibility might fall onto a college or postgraduate deanery in NHS England. 
  • In Northern Ireland and Scotland, doctors will receive their actual duty roster no later than six and four weeks, respectively, prior to the start of the post. 
Employer compliance with the code of practice

Let us know if your employer has not complied with the agreed timelines. We can raise it on your behalf anonymously with your employer.


Complete the form

Contractualisation of the code of practice in England

In England, it is now a contractual requirement for employers to provide the generic rota outlining the rota and working pattern eight weeks prior to the start of the post, and the precise rota slot at a minimum of six weeks before the start of the post.

However, there are a number of circumstances that exempt employers from adhering to these timeframes:

  • if HEE has failed to provide all the required information to the employer at least 12 weeks prior to the start date of your post
  • if your contract of employment is with a lead employer, and the host employer of your prospective post has not provided them with the necessary information to meet the eight and six weeks deadlines
  • where one of the above circumstances occur, your employer should take reasonable steps to provide your rota and/or duty roster as soon as possible, despite the exemption.

Download the code specific to your nation



Information to be provided Key dates in England Key dates in Northern Ireland Key dates in Scotland
Recruiting office to place advertisements. For a min of 4 weeks For a min of 4 weeks For a min of 4 weeks
Recruiting office to ensure programme information is available for applicants prior to submitting their programme preferences. (FP only). Min of 8 weeks before Min of 8 weeks before Min of 8 weeks before
Eligibility criteria to be published on recruiting organisations websites. Min of 4 weeks before recruitment round Min of 4 weeks before recruitment round Min of 4 weeks before recruitment round
Recruiting organisations provide information about programmes and location (including specific site(s) of work within multi-site organisations) on websites. Non specified Non specified Non specified
Foundation schools indicate whether applicants will be ranking their programme preferences for rotations for both years of their programme; or just their first year. (FP only) Mid-September Non specified Non specified
Foundation schools or deaneries publish information about how they will match applicants to programmes. (FP only) Prior to recruitment round Prior to recruitment round Prior to recruitment round
Local office to provide programme allocation information to applicants. As soon as possible after initial offer has been accepted on Oriel, and no later than 12 weeks prior to start of post Non specified Non specified
Recruiting organisation to provide application information to employer once offer of training programme has been accepted and general information has been provided to applicant. Min. of 12 weeks prior to start of post Min. of 6 weeks prior to the start of the 1st placement Min. of 6 weeks prior to the start of the 1st placement
Employer to provide doctor specific information about the post being offered. Min. of 8 weeks prior to the start of the 1st placement Min. of 6 weeks prior to the start of the 1st placement Min. of 6 weeks prior to the start of the 1st placement
Employer to provide the doctor with their rota in the generic work schedule. Min. of 8 weeks (contractual requirement) Non specified Non specified
The duty roster will be made available at 6 weeks before commencement of post. Min. of 6 weeks (contractual requirement) Min. of 6 weeks Min. of 4 weeks prior to start of post
Employer to issue statement of particulars and employment contract to doctor. At the start of the post, or no later than 8 weeks after start of post At the start of the post, or no later than 8 weeks after start of post No later than 8 weeks after start of post
Recruiting organisation provides employer and doctor in training details of future placements within the training programme. At least 12 weeks before each placement start date At least 8 weeks before each placement start date At least 8 weeks before each placement start date

Glossary of terms

Fixed leave

Leave which is built into the construction of the rota with days or weeks blocked out for each doctor in advance. Under the 2016 contract, fixed leave is not permitted without the agreement of the trainee.

Generic work schedule

A generic work schedule is a document setting out the trainee’s intended learning outcomes (mapped to the educational curriculum) and work commitments. It includes a copy of the rota that the trainee will be working to.

Health Education England (HEE)

HEE undertakes workforce planning on behalf of the health service in England, and works with employers, medical schools, medical royal colleges and others to commission and plan medical recruitment and curricula. HEE was established in 2013 and formally took control of workforce planning, as well as housing the deanery functions which had previously been standalone units.

Lead Recruiting Body (LBD)

In Scotland, the Lead Recruiting Body may be an NHS Board, College, Local Education Training Board or Deanery.

Local office

Branch of Health Education England (HEE) within a local area that works with medical schools and employers within its footprint, as well as a number of other areas outside of medicine-specific issues. These offices also house the deanery function within their footprint. There are 13 local offices in England.


Oriel is the UK-wide portal for recruitment to postgraduate medical, dental, public health, healthcare science and pharmacy training programmes. This is done centrally in one location, where previously up to 20 systems has to exist across the United Kingdom.

NHS Education for Scotland (NES)

Its medical directorate is responsible for the commissioning and delivery of postgraduate medical education. Its four Scottish deaneries have operational responsibility for ensuring that all aspects of postgraduate medical education are delivered to the highest standards.


A setting into which a doctor is placed to work for a fixed period of time in a post or posts in order to acquire the skills and competencies relevant to the training curriculum, as described in the work schedule.


The working pattern of an individual doctor or group of doctors.


A rotation is a series of placements made by the HEE local office into posts with one or more employers or host organisations. These can be at one or more locations.

Recruiting office

Recruitment for specialty training has a single lead office for recruitment in England. This office is often a local HEE office which administers the applications for specialty recruitment across England.

Recruiting organisation

The term used to describe the organisation undertaking recruitment for postgraduate medical training. This covers deaneries, foundation schools, the UKFPO, GP NRO, and lead recruiting trusts.

Scottish Medical Training (SMT)

It became the new name for Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) in Scotland from 2009. SMT is coordinated by NES in partnership with the lead recruiting boards for each specialty, and with those NHS Boards which will employ the doctor in training.

Trainee Information Systems (TIS)

An ongoing HEE piece of work to amalgamate information systems used to manage trainees and learners where currently there are multiple systems in use to perform this function. TIS is a national initiative to develop information systems that are able to create a single platform for this information to allow a more streamlined and user-friendly system.


If you don't receive information in time

Keep it local

For the foundation programme, you should contact your foundation school to find out as much as you can for your case. Contact details should be available on correspondence you have received from the school, or online.
For specialty trainees, you should contact the recruiting office. It may be that the recruiting office is not local to you, but you should not be put off by that.

Raise it with the recruiting body

If you are not happy with the response from your foundation school or recruiting office, speak to your HEE local office for the purpose of engaging with the deanery function and find out more information. Ideally, if you are at this stage then the HEE local office should be able to escalate the issue.

Contact the BMA

If you are not able to get the answer you want, then raise this issue with a BMA employment adviser who will be able to take further steps to advance your issue.

Don’t delay

If you are kept waiting during the process at any stage, then do not delay in contacting those running the process – it will benefit you to ensure that the process is being run to time and that you are being contacted regularly. It is important for you to be fully informed, so that you can be prepared for your new post.

Conversely, make sure you respond promptly if contacted for further information by the recruiting organisation or your employer. Response deadlines vary across the nations, and they are specified in section 10 of each national code. 

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