Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Medical Student Elective: Part 2 - London, Great Britain


Introduction [back to contents]

As part of the final year of my medical studies, I have to undertake a minimum 4-weeks clinical placement of any kind. I chose to do mine in Germany and the UK. In this post, I'm going to talk about my experience in the UK.

The hospital I applied to is St George's Hospital, which is located in Tooting (South Eastern part of Greater London). The hospital is affiliated with St George's University of London. To apply, you will need to contact the registrar or elective coordinator of the university (not the hospital). The application process is very complicated due to the strict laws in the UK governing health care professionals.

My advice is to apply several months beforehand. You will need to complete health checks, lab tests and vaccinations which may take several weeks to complete. You will also need to apply for criminal records checks both in the UK and locally (which will take at least a month to complete). In December 2010, Australian citizens will also need to apply for a tier 4 visa to enter Britain as a medical student and do your elective term. This will set you back quite a bit of money. When you apply for the visa, make sure that you have read very carefully all the fine prints in the requirements and application forms even before you start to apply.

You might need to show evidence of funds that has been available in a financial situation for at least 30 days. The university you are attending will also need to apply for CAS number and this might take some time to obtain. Ensure that you follow every instructions and be pedantic about ticking every boxes and attaching all files. I know friends who got rejected because of minor mistakes in the application and either have to reapply (and pay the hefty fees again) or cancel altogether.

Getting there [back to contents]

From Heathrow Airport, a taxi drive here set me back £80. I arrived late at night and was very tired to care about the cost. However, if you arrived during the day, using the tube (their underground train network) would be a more sensible option. Make sure that you get the Oyster card at the station since this will save you quite a bit. The tube map is easy to understand and can be gotten for free at the ticket office. The station you will want to get off at is called the Tooting Broadway. From there, it is a 10 minutes walk to the hospital.

Heathrow Airport sells simcards from a vending machine. However, since the prepaid plans in the UK are so complicated, it would probably be easier to visit a phone shop (there is one close to Tooting Broadway) and get the shopkeeper to choose a plan for you. I personally used O2 (only because the lady at student services gave me a London guidebook which has an O2 simcard included for free).

St George's Hospital is one of the larger hospitals in London. It is one of the tertiary referral hospital and is larger than most if not all hospitals in Australia. Their website can be found here. There is a huge range of departments that you can choose to do your elective in. I personally chose the Intensive Care Unit. The affiliated St George's University of London is located in the same complex. The university's website can be found here.

Accommodation, food and groceries [back to contents]

When you apply, you'll be offered accommodation choices. Most likely, they will offer you accommodation in the students' halls. The accommodation is very basic, but the rent is cheaper than the alternative. The place is also limited, so this is another reason to apply very early.

The hospital cafe is open early for breakfast and lunch (and dinner if you really want to eat 3X a day there). Food there is reasonably cheap. There is also a supermarket located near the hospital main entrance. If you feel like a bit of walking, you can walk towards Tooting Broadway. You will find an even larger supermarket that sells pretty much everything (Sainsbury) and a cheap clothing shop (Primark), which is handy of you can't be bothered doing laundry or if you want some disposable clothing to only wear in the UK.

Getting around and shopping [back to contents]

This is London. Need I say more? It is one of the capital shopping cities of the world. The tube is your best friend. The larger tube stations also share the national rail system which you can take to visit other parts of the UK. Flights within Europe is also cheap. So when you arrive, make sure you get a good tourist map and plan to have fun!

Click on the links below to view photos (on facebook).

London #1

London #2
Elective in London is a very rewarding experience. I recommend it to anyone wanting to have a pseudo-holiday in an English speaking country while having great medical experience.

  • People speak English!
  • It's London! You can find anything here!
  • St George's Hospital is a major hospital and have all kind of medical specialties
  • Application process is overly complicated
  • Visa application is a pain and cost a lot of money

Feel free to leave any comments or questions!


  1. Hi,
    Thanks for the useful info. I was just wondering if you know what sort of specialities (other than ICU) are available. or where I can find this information?

  2. http://www.sgul.ac.uk/undergraduate/medical-electives-1

    The website above is the link to St George's University of London's page on electives. St George's is a full service tertiary hospital just like the Austin/St Vincent's/RMH/Alfred in Melbourne. Other specialties at St George's that were popular elective destinations of my year level was Cardiology, Cardiac Surgery, Emergency and Gastroenterology.

    When you email St George's Registrar to apply, she'll send you the application form which includes all the possible specialties and what they require (some of them only want 4-weeks or 8-weeks terms, etc).

  3. Hi Ignatius,
    It looks like you have had a great time, thanks for the info. I am a medical student from Australia and recently I was approved to do my elective in January 2012 at the A&E department of St Georges hospital. I have organized this with the university. However I know want to change my elective to December. My allocated supervisor is fine with that however the University say they can not approve it as they are on vacation in December. I was wondering if it may be possible to organize the necessary paperwork with staff at St Georges hospital. Is there someone in hospital admin who I can organize my elective with rather than the University so that I am able to undertake my elective in December?

  4. Hi, thanks for your comment.

    I am afraid that the University has this wierd rule that your elective cannot include the period between December 24 and January 2. I had the same problem. I wanted to spend more time there from December to February, but was prevented by that rule.

    As to applying directly to the hospital, I'm afraid that it won't be possible. The UK government had recently added a requirement in their Visa application (I'm assuming that you are an Australian citizen) that for a medical student elective, you have to apply for a Tier 4 (student) visa. For that, you will need a university sponsor with their CAS number. The hospital does not have the capacity to act as your sponsor (and does not have a CAS number) and therefore everything has to be set by the University.

    I am sorry that this does not solve your problem. But you might be able to ask the registrar for an exemption?

  5. Thanks so much for your reply. I was about to call up the hospital, but you have saved me from doing that.

    It's a shame that we can't go in December, as I was hoping to be in London for their Christmas.

    I am an Australian citizen and have heard about the new visa requirements. It seems to be a bit of a headache and quite pricey. But I guess there is no other choice.

    I am now waiting to receive my CAS number so that I can apply for my visa.
    Thanks again :)

  6. You're welcome.

    If you really want to be in England for Christmas, this is the way I would do it:

    Fly to England in late December and enter as a tourist (Australian Citizens don't need a visa), then after Christmas, just before the elective, do a quick trip out of England. European flights are very cheap. Spend a few days travelling/holidaying/whatever, then return to England as a student using the Visa.

    If you have never been to Europe before, you shouldn't miss the Christmas season in Germany. Their Christmas market is unrivalled anywhere in the world and there is so much things to do and see there. You don't have to do an elective there like I did before coming to England. Australian citizens can enter (and even do the medical student elective) in Germany without any visa requirement. The stamp you get at the German airport allows you to stay for 90 days.

  7. hello Ignatius, thanks for sharing your tips on electives at St George's. i'll be doing my electives there in ICU soon, just wanted to know when u were there, did u just wear scrubs around the hospital? i won't need to pack that many work-clothes if they provide scrubs.

  8. I was there January 2011. To work in ICU, you'll be wearing scrubs. Scrubs will be provided. It is a good idea to bring a white coat with you. Otherwise you have to be hunting for a coat before you are allowed to walk around hospital outside ICU with scrubs on.

  9. Hello Ignatius. Thanks for sharing. After getting a provisional offer, what are the other requirements? As per immunisation and health checks. Also, do they ask for a Transcript?

  10. Hi,
    Just wondering,was the placement observational or were you allowed to interact with patients? If so, were you allowed to undertake the bread and butter procedures?

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