Offering work experience

October is Work Experience Month 2019. The guidance and resources provided below support practices to offer work experience placements to pupils aged 16+. A one-day placement in general practice can provide aspiring medics with incredible insight into some of the realities of medicine.

Together we are inspiring tomorrows #TeamGP.

Work Experience Pledge

Pledge to offer work experience placements at your practice this 2019/2020 academic year.

Why offer work experience at your practice?

Young people who are interested in applying to study medicine are encouraged to do all that they can to gain a realistic understanding of medicine and must explain this throughout their medical school application. Work experience in a healthcare setting is one way they obtain this insight, by observing staff and witnessing core values, skills and attributes being demonstrated. It is often not easy for pupils to gain work experience opportunities, unless they have networks and contacts in healthcare.

By offering work experience practices can: 

  • Inspire and support informed career decisions
  • Provide insight into general practice
  • Develop the skills of your staff members.

    "Encouraging young people to consider a career in primary care is crucial to helping inspire the next generation of GPs. Work experience helps pupils gain an insight into the work that family doctors do."  Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard.

    Offer a one-day placement

    Practices are encouraged to consider, where possible, offering anywhere from one day to three days to any one pupil. A week-long commitment is not a requirement. A one-day work experience placement can provide a young person with fantastic insight into primary care and they are incentivised to get as much out of the day as possible. 

    The emphasis for young people is not how much work experience they get but how they reflect upon what they observe. The RCGP have created a reflective diary [PDF] which can be provided to work experience participants to help them reflect on their experiences and take notes in between their experiences. A pupil pack [PDF] has also been created which can be provided ahead of the placement to ensure they are prepared.

    An example one-day work experience schedule [PDF]  is available for practices to use as a template - with particular attention on the induction at the start of the first day. 

    How to offer placements?

  • Pupils should not attend a work experience placement at the practice they are registered at as a patient (see common myths below)
  • It is not necessary for practices to collect and select pupils based on academic criteria
  • Placements can be offered ad-hoc or by establishing a relationship with a careers adviser or head of science at a school outside your immediate locality
  • Teachers within said school can select suitable pupils (aged 16+) interested in medicine and ensure they are prepared for the day
  • Practices are encouraged to provide opportunities to young people who do not have relatives or friends working in healthcare. 
  • Key points to remember 

  • Pupils should not be allowed to carry out any clinical activities
  • Ensure that participants are in the company of a member of staff at all times
  • Please take account of the different levels of maturity, confidence and experience of your participant(s)
  • They will be nervous and often we can overestimate our expectations of young people
  • Be clear on the start and finish times.

  • Common myths

    Myth 1 | Patient confidentiality

    Often there is a misunderstanding that work experience cannot be held in general practice because of confidentiality.

    Patient dignity and confidentiality must be maintained, however the methods suggested below aim to safeguard this and allow work experience pupils to learn about the trust between the general practice team and its patients. 

    • Work experience placements should not be offered to pupils who are registered at your practice, as they are more likely to know patients.
    • A thorough induction should stress the importance of confidentiality. Pupils can be asked to sign a pupil agreement form [PDF] consenting that they will keep all information, including the identity of patients, confidential.
    • If there is time, use our confidentiality activity sheet [PDF] and facilitator notes [PDF] to structure your conversation.
    • Where possible, have a three point plan 1) inform patients that a work experience pupil will be present when they book their appointment; 2) when they arrive at reception and 3) again when they enter the consultation. Generally, patients are happy for them to be present. Be sure that they understand the status of the pupil i.e they are not a medical student. 
    • Inform the work experience pupil in advance about where they should go if a patient does not consent for them to be present. Should they wait outside the room? In the staff room? Will you come back to get them?

    Myth 2 | Insurance and indemnity

    Individuals on work experience are covered by the existing employers’ liability insurance policy of the practice.  

    The Association of British Insurers, the British Insurance Brokers Association and Lloyds of London have agreed that, as a matter of convention, individuals on work experience placements should be treated as employees for the purposes of insurance against bodily injury, where the employer is legally liable for a loss. You only need to notify your insurer of the sorts of activities that individuals on work placement will undertake if those activities are onerous or different from the normal business activities of your organisation. The work experience placements we are recommending are less than one week in length and involve no clinical or out of the ordinary activity. The pupils only observe what is taking place.  

    Many indemnity organisation’s view the supervision of work-based learning as part of the role of being a GP. The benefits of indemnity would apply to members only and would not extend to the provision of assistance to those on work experience if a claim were made directly against them. For more information visit the Association of British Insurers. See the information above relating to confidentiality for further guidance. 

    Myth 3 | Child protection and safeguarding

    The below information relates to pupils in England, Scotland and Wales. The College is confirming the correct guidance for pupils in Northern Ireland. 

    It is not necessary for pupils on work experience to complete a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check (England and Wales) or Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) check (Scotland) ahead of their placement because they must be supervised at all times.

    No DBS or PVG is required for supervisors. A DBS check is not compulsory for staff supervising young people aged 16-17. A PVG check is not required by staff because the pupil is classified as 'working' while on work experience. 

    To ensure peace of mind, by all parties, however, it is recommended that participants are matched for 1-2-1 activity with practice staff members who have an in-date DBS (no more than three years old)  or PVG check, which many staff members within a practice are likely to have. 

    Myth 4 | Health and safety paperwork

    You do not need to repeat risk assessments for work experience placements as these individuals are only shadowing clinical activities. However, if you do not currently employ a young person or haven’t done so in the last few years or you are taking on a work experience pupil for the first time, it is advisable to review your risk assessment before they begin their placement.

    It is recommended that potential risks are discussed during the pupils induction, checking that they have understood what they have been told. It is also advisable to determine at this stage if the pupil has any needs or circumstances you need to be aware of.  



    Work experience resources:  

    What can I say to pupils when I can’t offer them work experience?

    Useful information flyer for aspiring medics

    It may not be possible for your practice to offer placements at this time.  

    Provide our useful information flyer [PDF]  in person, or via email to pupils who approach your practice for work experience.





    Widening participation work experience programme 

    Since 2016, RCGP have partnered with medical schools around the UK to offer primary care work experience placements to pupils from widening participation backgrounds. Over one thousand pupils have benefited as a result. The programme is administered by UK medical schools who select eligible pupils and deliver workshops to participants prior to and after their work experience placement. This model has been accredited as gold standard by work experience experts Fair Train.

    RCGP provide partners with all the materials required, including slides and content for the pre- and post-placement workshops. The programme was initially developed at the University of Leeds.  

    If your local medical school is listed below as a 2019 partner and you would like to get involved in 2020 or if you work at a medical school and would be interested in finding out more, please contact


    Partner medical schools 2019

    Medical school logos

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