Living and Working in the UK as a Doctor

The UK, or Britain, is a culturally diverse and densely populated country, with around 60 million people living there.  A large proportion of residents (approximately one third) live in the South East, which is mostly made up of urban and suburban communities. 

The capital, London, is by far the most densely populated city in Europe with 8 million residents - around 5,200 per square kilometer according to the 2011 census.  London also has the largest non-white population of any European city and over 250 different languages are spoken.

The UK is one of the few countries still to have a monarchy, and the current monarch is Queen Elizabeth II who has ruled since 1952.  The Queen is the official head of state, but as Britain has a constitutional monarchy, this is just symbolic with power belonging to parliament.

The cost of living in the UK varies depending on where you are in the country, but as a rule of thumb, it is more expensive to live in London and the South East, than it is in the Northern parts.

When re-locating to the UK, there are a number of essentials that you need to take care of, which are as follows:

1. National Insurance

National Insurance (NI) is a form of income taxation, administered by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).  These payments build up your entitlement to state benefits such as your pension and contributes to the cost of the National Health Service.  If you plan to work in the UK, you must apply for your NI as soon as possible since it can take up to three months to be processed.  Once processed, you will be given an NI number which will allow you to obtain Government benefits such as free medical services.  If you are self-employed, it can also make life a whole lot easier when applying for your tax returns.

Information on how to apply for a National Insurance number is available on the government’s website here

2. Tax

In the UK, if you are employed, tax and NI payments are deducted automatically from your earnings via the Pay As You Earn System (PAYE).  Your local tax office will provide your employer with a tax code, which determines how much tax and NI you should be paying

Full details about income tax and tax codes can be viewed here

3. Bank Accounts

Often, trying to open a bank account can be one of the biggest frustrations for people moving to the UK, since it is needed to receive payments and to secure a rented property.  However, with the right preparation, this should be relatively straightforward.  As the requisite information for opening a bank account varies between different banks, it is recommended that you bring as much information with you as possible.

Documents you will need:

  • Passport
  • A reference from your bank in your home country
  • Proof of address, e.g. a rental agreement, a bill to you at your address, or a letter from someone whose name is on the lease
  • A letter from your employment agency stating your registration and explaining that you are actively seeking work (RIG Locums is able to provide this for you when you register)

The BBA has produced a useful document providing further information about opening a bank account in the UK, which can be downloaded here

4. Accommodation

There is a vast number of letting and estate agencies throughout the UK that can help you find a private rented property.  However, it can be difficult to secure a property for a term less than six months with this route.  If you do need shorter-term accommodation, it is advisable to contact the hospital that you will be working at since there is often cheap housing available there or nearby for staff.  It is important to note that this can be very basic, and sometimes there may be shared communal living areas such as kitchens, bathrooms and living rooms.

If this doesn’t appeal to you, there are some other short-term options that you can look into.

Renting from another doctor / short-term lets specifically for doctors

You can search for a short-term let in a room, flat or house owned by another doctor by using one of these websites:

Serviced Apartments

Another, but more expensive option is to rent a serviced apartment, which are similar to hotels but offer self-catering facilities, more space, and are generally cheaper.  You can find serviced accommodation websites here:

Letting Agents

If you are looking for private rented accommodation for a duration of six months or more, you can register with a letting agency.  Be aware that these can vary in terms of standard and service, since until relatively recently the lettings market was not regulated in the UK.  There are a number of associations that accredit letting agencies – use these to find a reputable agency in the area that you are looking to work in:

To secure a rental property, agents will typically need a letter from your bank or employer to prove that you are able to meet your rental payments.  If you are unable to supply that, then bank statements showing your income are usually accepted, but this will vary between different agencies.