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Respiratory Medicine within the NHS

  • September 16, 2020


General Medicine is the largest field of medicine in terms of the number of different pathways and individual specialisms.  More specifically, Respiratory Medicine is one of the largest specialties, with respiratory diseases affecting 1 in 5 people in the UK. Approximately one third of all acute admissions to hospital are the result of primary respiratory problems. This provides great NHS career and learning opportunities within Respiratory Medicine.

This Blog Article aims to provide specific insight into Respiratory Medicine and what to expect when working within this field in the NHS. As an international recruitment company, BDI Resourcing recommend that international Doctors aspiring to work within the NHS in Respiratory Medicine, take the MRCP route to their GMC Registration.

What should I expect?

Working as a Respiratory Medicine Physician, you will have the option to participate in “medical takes”, where you will see patients admitted to hospital with different medical problems. In this context you will be practising general medicine, rather than acute respiratory medicine.

Regular ward rounds, where the medical staff visit and review each patient are an important part of the job. It would be usual to attend about two ward rounds each week. Ward rounds are led by the consultant, who also supervises foundation doctors, medical trainees and specialist trainees. You will be working closely on the wards with specific teams of Nursing staff and respiratory physiotherapists.

It is important to note that multidisciplinary team meetings are a vital part of respiratory medicine, where different doctors and other staff meet to discuss the progress of individual patients. You will also meet with radiologists and pathologists. Most respiratory physicians will be expected to work some out of hours work in addition to typical day time hours, including nights on call and weekends because of the acute medical take.

Of course, whilst it is impossible to predict the daily interventions you may be carrying out on a day to day basis within the NHS, you will commonly be practicing the following procedures and techniques:

  • Pleural (Lung) Ultrasound
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Thoracoscopy
  • Inserting Stents
  • Endobronchial Ultrasound
  • Thermoplasty
  • Insertion of indwelling catheter

“Developing new services such as difficult asthma clinics, sleep services, respiratory high dependency units, or tuberculosis contact tracing clinics is also a large and rewarding part of the job,” says Dr Burhan, respiratory consultant at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital, Liverpool.

Where will I be working?

Due to Respiratory Medicine being such a large field of medicine, Respiratory Physicians may work in a variety of different settings alongside a variety of different departments and colleagues. You may be asked to see patients who are under the care of the intensive care unit, surgical teams, haematology and oncology, cardiology, neurology and many more, essentially meaning that you could be working in any department within the Hospital.

More specifically, Respiratory physicians within the NHS will likely work closely with colleagues in the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU), providing advice; since so many acute conditions involve respiratory problems.  Similarly, Respiratory Medicine specialists will often work closely with Radiologists when a patients chest or breathing problem requires an x-ray or scan.

Respiratory Physicians will also work in outpatient clinics and this is a highly important part of their work. There are two types of clinics: general respiratory clinics and specialist clinics. Patients with asthma and conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are treated in General Clinics whilst Specialist Clinics or Units will specialise in one area, such as sleep-related problems, cystic fibrosis, chronic coughs, cancer and most topical at current, COVID.

Finally, Respiratory Physicians may also work in lung function laboratories within hospitals, enabling the interpretation of complex lung function testing. Here, you should expect tgo be working alongside Lung Oncologists and Histopathologists.

Can I sub specialize?

Whilst there are a number of highly recognized specialty interests associated with Respiratory Medicine, it is important to note that there are no formally recognised sub specialties. Common interests may include, but are not limited to:

  • Adult Cystic Fibrosis
  • Pulmonary Hypertension
  • Lung Transplantation
  • Domiciliary non-invasive ventilation
  • Occupational and Environmental Lung Disease

Relocating to the UK

If you are an international Respiratory Doctor with MRCP who would like to relocate to the UK, email your CV to [email protected] and we can support you in securing an NHS post and on your journey to relocate to the UK.

Are you a member of our Facebook group? When you join IMG Advisor, you join a community of doctors all looking to relocate to the UK and join the NHS. We post a series of blogs and vlogs to the group each day. We will also be on hand to answer all of your relocation queries.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel! We have over 60 videos covering everything you need to know about relocating to the UK and joining the NHS.

Listen to BDI Resourcing on the go with IMG Advisor the Podcast! You can listen to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Buzzsprout. We have a number of episodes with tips and advice on relocating to the UK and the routes you can take to achieve this.

Finally, we have just launched our new Instagram, so if you are a member, feel free to follow us to view our posts and IGTV: @bdiresourcing


RCP London. 2020. Specialty Career Profile: Respiratory Medicine. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 9 September 2020].

BMJ 2010; 340 Respiratory medicine doi: (Published 07 April 2010)

Health Careers. 2020. Respiratory Medicine. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 9 September 2020].


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