Education And Debate

How To Do It: Work in the European Union

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 02 March 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:567
  1. Frances Klemperer, psychiatrista
  1. a Community Help Service, Rue St Georges 102, Box 20, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
  • Accepted 5 December 1995

Continental Europe is now only 20 minutes away by train from mainland Britain, and moving ever closer politically. Mutual recognition of medical qualifications within the European Union is well established: working in other parts of Europe is, in principle, straightforward. Working in different health care systems can offer new perspectives on British medical practice and the NHS. But the cultural differences and practical difficulties are not always easy to overcome.


Working in Europe has never been easier. Mutual recognition of medical qualifications applies throughout the European Union and its partners in the European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein). Any doctor who is a citizen of, and who trained in, a member state is free to work as a doctor in the other member states.1 2

The first step is to register as a medical practitioner in the country where you want to work. There is no centralised registration system. You will have to go through the procedures unique to each member state. This is likely to cost several hundred pounds, take several months, and require a good deal of determination.

The British Medical Association can provide addresses of sister organisations and registering bodies equivalent to the General Medical Council. As in the United Kingdom, registration requires a large number of documents, both originals and notarised translations; these can be arranged through any reputable translator—try Yellow Pages. Allow time to collect them all. They may have to be sent, or even taken in person, to myriad different official departments. You may have to relinquish originals of the most important documents for a long period of time. Some countries require documents that do not exist in the British system—for example, the “national proof of good character or good repute” (required in Belgium), the “certificate of good conduct” issued by the …

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