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Medical recruitment

We are responsible for commissioning under and postgraduate education for doctors and dentists to ensure that we have a workforce in the right numbers, with the right skills, values and behaviours to respond to the current and future needs of patients. This includes delivering medical recruitment programmes and overseeing specialty recruitment in England.

We have been undertaking work to further improve quality across medical and dental recruitment and selection across the UK through the Medical and Dental Recruitment and Selection programme.

The Medical and dental recruitment and selection (MDRS) subgroups regularly report back on the delivery of medical and dental recruitment and selection, and where required, make recommendations to the Programme Board on areas for improvement. These groups include members from all four nations plus, royal college recruitment expertise representatives from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, BMA junior doctor representatives, a dental dean, the National School of Healthcare Scientists, National Institute for Health Research and the General Medical Council.

Their work includes:

  • developing Oriel, an online application portal for all recruitment for foundation and specialty training across the UK
  • encouraging those responsible for the recruitment, selection and appointment of doctors and dentists in postgraduate training to take a strategic approach to their quality assurance processes through the quality and standards workstream. This work includes the introduction of a Specialty Recruitment Assessment for ST1/CT1 applicants to general practice, core psychiatry and ophthalmology, the development of national standards for assessors, and the evaluation and improvement of medical selection processes.
  • promoting a strategic approach to medical and dental career planning and support in the UK through the career planning workstream. This work will look at determining how career planning information should be cascaded, collating information to inform career planning in medicine and dentistry, and optimising career planning for less popular specialties where recruitment has been difficult.
  • the UK Foundation Programme Office (UKFPO) has responsibility for the delivery of recruitment to the Foundation Programme (including Specialised Foundation Programmes and Foundation Priority Programmes) and curriculum delivery.
  • the Horus ePortfolio for the foundation programme in England is managed by a technical team within HEE, and is overseen by the UKFPO.
  • the 4 nation recruitment subgroup oversees all the recruitment and selection processes. It ensures these meet regulators standards, and that they are equitable and fair. This group reviews any changes or adaptations to the processes, and any issues, risks and mitigations

Medical recruitment programmes

We deliver medical recruitment programmes such as

  • recruiting to the Foundation Programme and curriculum delivery through the UK Foundation Programme Office
  • and to specialties through national recruitment offices.

We have been working with partners to develop and launch a new campaign to encourage more young doctors to become GPs. The ChooseGP campaign has the backing of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the British Medical Association (BMA).

Careers development within the UK medical and dental workforce

The careers subgroup has looked at advising on best practice and priorities for careers development within the UK medical and dental workforce.

The report, ‘MDRS Careers Strategy’, accessible below, outlines a number of recommendations to be taken forward by stakeholders across the system, but particularly careers advisors, based on key principles:

- a four nation approach to best practice

- careers advice that empowers individuals to make their own decisions

- promotes social inclusion

- doctors should be supported to be the best they can be

- doctors must be prepared to adapt flexibly to changing future career pathways

- careers advice should be timely, and realistic in context

- careers advice must be tailored to both the individuals situation and the health economy.

The group will continue to work on the strategy, to:

- ensure it reflects information available on the health careers website

- working with colleagues, update the strategy to reflect the experiences of the dental workforce

- working with colleagues, consider how it will impact on other professions, and what recommendations should be made for our multi-professional workforce.

Please view the MDRS Careers Strategy 2021

Oriel was developed by Health Education England as a UK-wide recruitment system for postgraduate specialty medical, dental and public health training. Oriel enables applicants to register, view vacancies, apply, schedule and manage interviews within just one online portal.

After a successful pilot with over 3000 trainees in February 2014, Oriel was launched on 1 September 2014.

Whilst previous recruitment phases relied on over twenty systems across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Oriel has brought about a major improvement in efficiency and consistency throughout the UK, introducing a centralised one-stop shop system for applicants.

Now it is live, it is expected that Oriel will further improve access to careers and recruitment information, decrease the time trainees spend on submitting applications, and decrease administration time to process applications and recruitment. Some of the new developments include improved security, compatibility for tablet and mobile devices, interactive FAQs, standardisation of emails and communications and the introduction of a single reporting mechanism.  

Oriel is expected to further embed the open, fair and effective processes for recruitment, selection and appointment by enabling all applicants and administrators to use the same solution.

Further information on Oriel and how to apply for each round can be found on the Oriel website.

The Medical and Dental Recruitment and Selection (MDRS) Quality and Standards subgroup oversees the standards of delivery of specialty training recruitment and selection processes across the UK, aiming to drive improvements in the quality of the processes used, and to ensure standards are equitable and maintained in all medical and dental specialties across the four nations.

You can view the reports for the Quality and Standards Subgroups for 2015 and 2016 at the bottom of this page.

As part of the group’s work to improve the education and training process, and the standards they adhere to, they commission a wide range of advice and research on a wide range of issues. You can read about these, and our work, below:

GP choice, selection and training

In 2015, rather than commissioning a number of smaller reviews of parts of different recruitment and selection processes, the group decided that a significant evaluation of a single specialty would be more useful. The MDRS Quality and Standards group asked an expert partnership of academics from the Universities of London, Birmingham and Warwick to look at the issues involved in GP choice, selection and training, and the benefits of the recruitment process against the costs and time involved. This was to enable us to review the effectiveness and utility of the current processes, and it tied in with our recent review of how general practice is taught in medical schools.  It was also to explore if there was greater learning from an in depth comprehensive single specialty approach

The review, which can be viewed below, will help to inform further development of recruitment and selection, in conjunction with our recent report, ‘By Choice Not Chance: Supporting medical students towards careers in general practice’. Further detail on how the recommendations for the recruitment and selection process are implemented will be provided on this page as they progress.

The Medical and Dental Recruitment and Selection (MDRS) Recruitment subgroup oversees the operational delivery of specialty training recruitment, including: 

developing the longer term vision for recruitment and selection into specialty training, taking into account trainee, trust and recruiter feedback on recruitment and selection processes

making recommendations to the MDRS Programme Board when required on aspects of the delivery of medical and dental recruitment and selection.


We deliver pathways for overseas medical professionals to join the NHS, ensuring they have the right skills and development opportunities available.

National Overseas Sponsorship Team

Health Education England is responsible for sponsoring doctors and dentists who require Skilled Worker sponsorship as part of their training programme. 

The National HEE Overseas Sponsorship Team coordinates Skilled Worker sponsorship centrally for all trainees within England and have created this short presentation for employers. 

The presentation is aimed to inform employers of the sponsorship process and their responsibility relating to right to work requirements for these trainees. Click here to watch the video.

If you would like to find out more, please contact: sponsorship@hee.nhs.uk

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