Consultant physicians

This page provides an overview of the role of a consultant physician.

A consultant physician is a senior doctor who practises in one of the medical specialties. Once specialty training has been completed, doctors are able to apply for consultant posts. This can be a very competitive process, particularly in certain specialties. Consultants accept ultimate responsibility for the care of patients referred to them, so it is a position of considerable responsibility. A physician typically works in a hospital, and their central duty is to carry out the investigations and procedures necessary to establish a diagnosis, and then to give advice and provide treatment where appropriate.

The work of the consultant goes beyond caring for patients. Another key aspect of the role is being involved in – and often leading – multidisciplinary teams delivering care. This involves being able to take an overview of the care pathway, and managing other team members (nurses, anaesthetists, physiotherapists, pharmacists etc) accordingly. Consultants are also expected to be involved in the teaching and training of students and junior doctors, and to contribute to their specialty field through research and leadership.

Support for consultant physicians at the RCP:

  • There are lots of roles that consultant physicians can hold within the RCP. They can sit on committees and working parties, participate in the RCP's research panel and act as mentors for the RCP's mentoring scheme. If they hold fellowship to the RCP, then they can also apply for college officer roles, which have specific remits.
  • There are plenty of opportunities to broaden your learning and develop your career, through our varied programme of conferences, educational programmes and e-learning, all of which help you to gain CPD points.
  • We offer networking opportunities, one-to-one careers advice and tailored support for new consultants.
  • These are opportunities to contribute to the RCP's clinical work, including quality improvement projects and NICE guidelines.

You can find out more about the services you have access to as a consultant physician member by visiting our membership pages.

New consultants

The RCP has support tailored directly for new consultants:

  • 'How to succeed as a new consultant' conference
  • New Consultants Committee
  • new consultants development programme.

Retired physicians

For many doctors, retirement doesn't mean stepping away from all things medical. Many choose to remain in touch with the profession, either socially or in some professional capacity. Possible ways of remaining in touch with the profession include:

  • occupying volunteer positions, at the RCP and in organisations such as free clinics and charitable institutions, allowing doctors to help out and pass on experience and expertise
  • mentoring younger physicians (applicable to physcians who retired less than 3 years previously)
  • registering for emergency health professionals lists, which would be utilised in a case of pandemic disease
  • joining the RCP's retired doctors association (see below).

The RCP has a Retired Fellows and Members Association, the Quincentennial Society, which provides its members with an opportunity to contribute to the activities of the RCP and enjoy scientific, cultural and educational meetings.