The difference between a consultant and a doctor

August 1, 2016

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Fully qualified medical practitioners in the UK fall into two categories: doctors and consultants. Both are vital but different parts of the health care system. The primary difference between these professions is that the term “doctor” refers to a General Practitioner (GP), someone who is trained in a wide range of medicine and medical procedures, whereas a consultant undergoes speciality training in a specific field of medicine after completing the same basic medical training as a doctor. 

Consultant vs. doctor – Job description

Doctors diagnose, treat and care for patients’ well-being. They are qualified to prescribe medications and perform minor medical procedures and minor surgeries. Most UK citizens are assigned a specific doctor under NHS. This doctor is known as that patient’s “primary care physician”. Each primary care physician manages their own patients’ healthcare records and is notified of any and all medical treatment their patient receives.

Doctors care for the general health of their patients, but they are not specialised in any one field of medicine or medical condition. Based on what their patients present with, they make initial diagnoses and, in many cases, have the ability to treat the conditions themselves.

Sometimes, doctors are unable to reach a certain diagnosis for a patient’s condition. If this happens, as well as if doctors are unable to treat a condition because they lack specialised skills, resources, and training, patients may be referred to a consultant.

Consultants, on the other hand, are specialised in a particular medical field.

There are over sixty specialist fields within the NHS that consultants can choose to practice in. All of these specialities come under the following overarching categories:

Consultant vs. doctor – Education and training

To being your journey to becoming a doctor in the UK, you must first get into a medical school that is approved by the General Medical Council (GMC). The GMC is the regulatory body for doctors in the UK, and all doctors must be registered with it. Most medical degree programs last 4 to 6 years. After completing your medical degree it will take you another 5 years of interning and residency training to become a fully qualified doctor, licensed to practice.

Consultants in the UK go through the same training as doctors and then spend a few more years getting additional education and training in their chosen speciality. After completing your medical degree it will take you another 7 to 9 years at the minimum to be able to practice as a hospital consultant.



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