GMC licence to practise

This article looks at the requirements in registering to practice as a medical practitioner in the UK from the GMC guidance (

‘If you are a doctor and want to practise medicine in the UK, you will need to hold registration with a licence to practise.

Holding a licence to practise allows you to, for example, prescribe prescription only medicines and hold a post as a GP, physician or surgeon. It also means you will need to show us regularly that you are up to date and fit to practise through revalidation.

If you're not practising medicine, but would like to be able to continue to show you are in good standing with the GMC, you can choose to hold registration only.

It is important however, that you are clear about your registration status with any organisations or individuals who wish to contract your services. It is a criminal offence in the UK to give the impression that you hold registration or a licence if you don't.

If you are not sure whether you need to hold a licence to practise, we would encourage you to talk to the organisations or individuals who wish to contract your services, your medical defence organisation or your insurance and indemnity provider. You might also want to seek independent legal advice from a solicitor.

If you don't hold registration or a licence, you can still help out in emergencies or carry out so-called 'Good Samaritan' acts. However, we would encourage you to talk to your medical defence organisation about how this may affect your insurance and indemnity.’

‘You must have a licence in order to carry out certain privileges and duties in the UK. While we try to offer as much guidance as possible in many case we are unable to offer you definitive advice as the law frequently changes. In these instances, or if you are unsure for any reason whether you need a licence for the work you are doing, you should always seek advice from:

  • Your employer
  • Your medical defence organisation
  • Your insurance and indemnity provider
  • Independent legal counsel

Doctors who want to keep their link with us, but don't need a licence to practise as they're not doing work that requires one, can give up their licence but keep their registration.’

‘Registration with a licence to practise:

  • enables doctors to legally practise any activities in the UK which are restricted by law to those holding a licence (such as signing death certificates and writing prescriptions for prescription only medicines)
  • applies only to UK medical practice and has no legal standing outside of the UK
  • means a doctor has to participate in revalidation.

Registration without a licence:

  • allows doctors to show to employers, overseas regulators and others that they remain in good standing with us
  • is an acknowledgement that the doctor’s primary medical qualification allowed them to gain entry to the medical register in the UK.’

Being registered without a licence allows you to indicate to employers, overseas regulators that you are in good standing and can cal yourself a ‘doctor’. It may be that you are working overseas and that this degree of registration allows other organisations to see that you are in good standing. It is not a requirement, however, to be able to work in other countries (unless you are intending to practice in Crown dependencies or Gibraltar). IF you are not registered with the GMC, you will need to do so to have the legal rights and privileges, eg prescribing and holding recognized appointments in the NHS and other regulated medical bodies that conduct the delivery of clinical care.

The GMC website provides detailed guidance and encourages contact to discuss any matters relating to registration for clinicians.