What to expect working in Emergency Medicine in the NHS

9 Minutes

Have you ever thought about working in emergency medicine in the UK? Perhaps you’re already ...

Have you ever thought about working in emergency medicine in the UK? Perhaps you’re already on the route to doing so, having gained your GMC registration or completed part of the MRCEM exams? If so, you are likely wondering what it entails. As an international medical graduate, a lot of it might seem like a mystery; fortunately, we are here to clarify things for you.

Working in an emergency department looks similar no matter where you are: you provide medical care to people needing urgent attention. That might include treating diseases, allergic reactions, and injuries. Below, we’ll go into the specifics of what it is like to work in emergency medicine for the NHS – particularly for IMGs.

Before reading on you might want to watch this full length interview with Dr Hurdyal who gives the inside story on his journey to the UK and what it’s really like working in ED in the NHS:


Working in emergency medicine in the UK provides a high salary. The basic salary is usually around £40,257 plus uplifts for a junior doctor and £51,017 plus uplifts for a middle grade or registrar equivalent according to the latest NHS Pay Circular, but you can expect to earn between £88,364 and £119,133 per year once you progress to a consultant level position.

To put that into perspective, the average salary in the UK is currently around £30k per year. So, even in the early days of your emergency medicine career, you will earn a very comfortable wage.

What is Expected of You?

What does an average day in the emergency department look like? Here are some of the expectations of emergency medicine doctors:

Providing Excellent Care

Of course, a large part of the job is to provide outstanding care quickly and efficiently. Therefore, you must be organised, even when faced with various challenges and patient presentations.

Interacting with People

It’s not just the patients you’ll be interacting with – you’ll interact with other speciality doctors, nurses, patient relatives, colleagues, and even the police on occasion.

Night Time Work

The emergency department needs to stay open at all hours for obvious reasons, which means you will likely put in some night shifts.

Liaising with Other Doctors

Much of the work will be about liaising with other doctors – sharing critical information about patients and keeping up with the department.

What About Trauma Centres?

It’s common for people to get emergency departments and trauma centres mixed up. Still, they are not the same – if you study to become a doctor in the emergency department, you won’t work in a trauma centre (unless you later train for that).

Trauma centres might be in an emergency department, but often they are separate in the hospital. They deal with more life-threatening, critical injuries, such as significant falls, stab wounds, brain injuries, and severe burns. The injuries are more extreme than those you see in the emergency department. A trauma centre will be filled with surgeons, radiologists, nurses, neurosurgeons, and cardiac surgeons.

As a comparison, the emergency department deals with less extreme injuries and illnesses, such as broken bones.

To work in a trauma centre, you will need to pursue speciality training.

The Pros and Cons of Working in Emergency Medicine

The Pros:

Excellent work-life balance

The NHS provides an excellent work-life balance, with benefits such as paid time off, to all workers. That means you can work in the ED while enjoying your life outside your career.

A secure job

Training to become a doctor in the emergency department means having a secure job for your entire career. After all, the NHS will always need doctors there.

A competitive salary

As detailed above, the average salary for physicians in the emergency department is much higher than the average.

A good support system

As Nouran Abdelkader – an IMG working for the NHS ED - points out:  

“People are honest. And always willing to help. No hierarchy.

If you have any concerns, you can raise them, and they act upon it.

They are used to dealing with international graduates. And they implemented modifications and induction processes for IMGs.”

Access to excellent training

Working in the emergency department for the NHS means having access to further training. So, for example, you might do your CESR or CCT to become a consultant.

Potential Cons:

Working at all hours

Some people might not like working throughout the night – that depends on you as a person.

Requires a lot of training

To work in emergency medicine, you must undergo a lot of training, which takes time.

Lots of challenges

The emergency department will inevitably make you face significant challenges – it’s part and parcel of the role. Some people can handle that, while others struggle.

Is Working in Emergency Medicine Right for You?

To thrive in an emergency medicine role, you must have the necessary skills. After all, it’s not easy! Here are the skills that will help you work well in such an environment:

  • High levels of communication
  • Able to work as a team
  • Can stick to a schedule
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Emotionally resilience

Relocating to the UK

Of course, relocating to the UK as an IMG might be a culture shock. Nouran Abdelkader did it, and here’s what they have to say,

“Based on my experience, patients are more demanding, and mental health issues are more prevalent. Social history is crucial. Our job is to serve our patients and make their lives better.

In my culture, bigger families are the unit of the community and are usually responsible for elderly and children care and any vulnerable adults.

But here, community services, social services, care home, and child care play a major role.”

Learning to adapt to the UK might take some time. It will please you to know that, generally, life is positive, though. There are plenty of support systems, and most of the big cities have great transport links.

Keep in mind that lifestyles change from city to city. For example, living in the north of England will be cheaper than living in the south. Living in London is undoubtedly one of the most expensive places to live. However, as an emergency department doctor, you will earn a good salary, so you will be able to afford it.

In Summary

Working in the NHS in the emergency department comes with plenty of highs as well as lots of challenges. That’s part of working in such an intense environment. If you have the necessary skills, it’s a highly fulfilling career that will make you feel proud of your work while also paying an excellent salary. If you'd like to know more then contact us and we'll be happy to share our support, guidance and latest job vacancies.