Intended for healthcare professionals

Career Focus

How do I apply for an observer post in a UK hospital before taking the PLAB test part 2?

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 06 November 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:s186
  1. Elitham Turya, consultant in child health
  1. Trafford NHS Trust


Have a career or related problem that needs answering? Can't find the right person to point you in the right direction? Log on to the Advice Zone ( for reliable medical careers advice. You can post a question or see if one of our 300 advisers has already answered a similar question. Here is a selection of questions and answers posted on the site.

A clinical attachment (observership) is the association of a novice clinician (junior doctor) with an experienced clinician (a consultant) to introduce the novice to a clinical discipline or environment.

Finding an attachment

There is no central organisation that arranges clinical attachments for overseas doctors. You can arrange an attachment by writing to a hospital consultant in your chosen specialty or to a hospital medical staffing officer. Enclose a copy of your curriculum vitae.

Finding names of consultants

Dr Foster's Guide to Healthcare Services in UK. Tel 0906 190021,

Royal medical colleges

Each year the royal medical colleges publish handbooks with names and addresses of their members and fellows. Public libraries have copies of these handbooks.

The postal addresses, telephone numbers, and websites of the royal medical colleges are on the internet.

Write to a hospital consultant requesting to spend several weeks on a clinical attachment in his or her department. The consultant may offer you an attachment and ask you to sort out administrative details with the medical staffing office.

Contact a few consultants at a time, and then wait a few weeks before writing again. If you are unable to take up an offer, write back thanking the consultant and explaining why you will not be taking up the offer.

Writing to a hospital

You can write to a hospital's medical staffing officer and ask him or her to find you a clinical attachment in the hospital. If the hospital offers clinical attachments, they will contact a consultant in the specialty of your interest. If the consultant agrees to supervise you, the medical staffing officer will then tell you how to sort out administrative details.

Good luck.

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