Flexibility in postgraduate training and changing specialties

Read an overview of the changes to postgraduate training and guidance on how to change your specialty, following the reforms made in June 2020.

Location: UK
Audience: Junior doctors
Updated: Tuesday 8 February 2022
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As a doctor training in the UK you may now carry over capabilities and competencies more easily should you choose to change your specialty.

This may allow you the opportunity to reduce the training time in your new specialty, dependent on the relevance of your experience from your previous training.

While this will be easier when transferring between some specialties than others, it is a significant improvement if you do choose to change your career path.

Some specialties have minimum training times in UK and EU law, so while you may be able to have competencies recognised by the training programme, you may still have to complete a set number of years in the training programme regardless of your prior experience.


Using the guidance to change your specialty

The guidance currently covers doctors in two scenarios, those:

  • wishing to change specialties
  • who want to take a break from the training programme, while continuing to work clinically, and may acquire additional capabilities while outside the training programme.

If you make the decision to change specialty, you should:

  • discuss this with your training programme director (or postgraduate dean) before you decide to proceed. However, you do not need to seek their permission to change specialties
  • ensure that your e-portfolio for the specialty you are moving from is completely up to date, as this information will support your ability to demonstrate shared areas between the two relevant curricula
  • apply in open competition for your new specialty.

Once you have been successful, it is important that you use the gap analysis tools to map the relevant parts of the curriculum to your previous experience, ready for the start of your new post.

It’s important that you mention your previous specialty experience at your first meeting with your educational supervisor following the start of your new post. You should also meet with your new Training Programme Director to discuss your experience as well.

You must have the opportunity to have your previous experience considered, and this should not be dismissed out of hand. If you feel that you are being denied the opportunity to have previous experience considered, then please get in contact with us.

Read the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges guidance.


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Gap analysis tool

The gap analysis tool is used to identify those capabilities in your new curriculum that you have already achieved in your previous training programme.

You will need to review the relevant curricula in detail in order to identify what they are ahead of starting in your new programme.

Once the gap analysis is submitted to your educational supervisor or training programme director, you will need to be assessed against the requirements of the new specialty. The gap analysis and your e-portfolio evidence will lead to the creation of a learning agreement that will set the outcomes for the immediate period of your training programme.

As part of the agreement, you may be required to demonstrate the competencies that you have referred to in your gap analysis and e-portfolio. Your learning agreement will also be reviewed from time-to-time based on what you have been able to demonstrate.

The gap analysis will be deemed provisional until it is approved at your next ARCP (Annual Review of Competency Progression). Only the ARCP panel may decide whether and how long you may reduce your training by, based on your competence and success in training under the learning agreement.

It is important that you contact the BMA if you are denied the opportunity for your prior learning to be considered at any stage.

The process is described in more detail by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, and must be followed. If it is not, then please contact the BMA so we can help.

There may be occasions where you are unable to progress because of a disagreement on relevant competencies between you and the ARCP panel, where the process has been followed properly. In this case, you should escalate this to your Head of School, or Royal College training representative.


Will my previous experience be recognised?

Following the publication of the guidance, the BMA expects that all HEE local offices and deaneries across the UK will adapt this guidance in to their procedures in time for those starting new training programmes in 2020, as well as those already in post that may have capabilities that they want to count to their training programme.

If you are facing difficulties accessing the transferable capabilities framework for any reason, it is crucial that you let your local JDC chair know so they may raise it locally with your HEE local office or deanery.

Alternatively, you can email [email protected] with the details of your issue, and we will ensure this is shared with the relevant local JDC.

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