CESR Applications for Psychiatrists

  • May 02, 2022

In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at the specific guidance on NHS applications for entry onto the Specialist Register through the Certificate of Eligibility for Specialist Registration (CESR) for psychiatrists. 

We’ll cover the eligibility criteria, application process, and most importantly the required evidence, along with some other topics, summarised in the headings below: 

Skip ahead to the relevant section if you know what you’re looking for. 

An Introduction to CESR 

The CESR, or Certificate of Eligibility for Specialist Registration, is the route to specialist registration for psychiatrists who have not completed a GMC-approved training programme but who are able to demonstrate that their specialist training, qualifications and experience are equivalent to the requirements for the award of CCT in the UK.  

CESR holders can be appointed to substantive (or permanent) consultant positions in the NHS. As a psychiatrist, attaining specialist registration will mean you are qualified to practice independently as a psychiatry consultant in the NHS. 

Psychiatrists must satisfy the GMC that their specialist training or specialist qualifications, when considered together, are equivalent to a CCT in the specialty in question. Doctors who have undertaken a minimum of 6 months training or obtained a specialist qualification and acquired specialist medical experience or knowledge as a psychiatrist within a non-training post, and are currently practicing, may apply to the GMC for assessment of their competencies. 

Overseas doctors do not require CESR before moving to the UK to work in the NHS. Often, experienced psychiatrists will secure a post in the UK, and work towards CESR whilst in post. Typically, CESR is a preferred route towards specialist registration for overseas trained psychiatrists. 

An overseas psychiatrists training may not have covered all the ground of the CCT curriculum, but they may be able to show competence in the missing area through experience in a fixed term Specialty Doctor, Specialty Grade, Associate Specialist, or Acting Consultant post in the NHS. In this case, overseas psychiatrists will likely complete the MRCPsych exams to gain GMC registration and start working in the NHS, before completing CESR.  

MRCPsych for Specialist Registration 

Overseas doctors looking to join the Specialist Register are not required to have completed the Royal College postgraduate exams. In this case, MRCPsych is only a requirement for doctors looking to attain Specialist Registration via the CCT route.  

The standard test of knowledge in the CCT curriculum is the MRCPsych exam, so passing these exams confirms the attainment of the competencies of the core Curriculum. 

However, if CESR applicants have not successfully completed MRCPsych, they must provide alternative evidence that demonstrates equivalent knowledge to psychiatrists who have passed the exams. 

Even if the competencies covered by the exam require something that someone in your position would not routinely undertake (in your sub-specialty for example), you must still provide evidence of it – as the evaluators will not make assumptions outside of the evidence presented. 

This is not to be confused with the requirements for registering for a full licence to practice with the GMC – many overseas applicants choose to complete MRCPsych.

Specialist Registration is additional to full registration with the GMC and is therefore not required to practice as a psychiatrist in the UK. 

You can read more about the full MRCPsych examination suite in our IMG Resources library

The CESR Equivalence Process 

Equivalence refers to the process of assessing an overseas applicant’s training and experience against the current psychiatry training programme requirements, in order to be awarded CESR. 

The equivalence process involves submitting a written body of evidence to the GMC, consisting of: 

  • training and/or competence; AND 
  • skills and knowledge 

The Royal College of Psychiatrists will assess each application against the relevant Curriculum before providing a recommendation to the GMC, who will then make a decision. 

Please note that Equivalence procedures are the responsibility of the GMC. Applications are made through their Certification Department and initial enquiries should be directed there. 

Evidence Requirements for CESR in Psychiatry 

Skills & Experience: The evidence provided for a CESR application in psychiatry must cover the knowledge, skills and qualifications to demonstrate the required competencies in all areas of the General Psychiatry Curriculum, and the Advanced Module in the sub-specialty you are applying in. If evidence is missing from any area of the curriculum, the application will fail. 

Primary Evidence: To demonstrate that you can do what is required by the curriculum, you need to submit primary evidence of your clinical practice which shows how you work on a day-to-day basis: letters, reports, assessments etc. References, retrospective case summaries, and reflective notes can all be used in a CESR application, but by themselves they are not sufficient. 

Audit & Governance: You are required to submit evidence of your active leadership in audit, including evidence that you have completed at least one audit cycle 

Currency of evidence: Your evaluators will be looking for evidence of current competency, generally defined as within the last five years. If you have completed training before this point, it is crucial that you provide evidence of maintaining competency across the whole area of the curriculum.  

The GMC asks that only evidence that is strictly relevant is sent as it will help them to process the application quicker. The guidance on compiling your evidence will help you to decide what is relevant and what is not – you can find this on the GMC website here

As a general guide, the GMC usually expects to see about 800 - 1200 pages of evidence, divided into four different domains, reflecting those of Good Medical Practice. The GMC recommends that you apportion the evidence provided as shown below: 

Domain 1 – Knowledge, skills and performance 

Domain 2 – Safety and quality 

Domain 3 – Communication, partnership and teamwork 

Domain 4 – Maintaining trust 

Please note, you cannot compensate for evidence lacking in one area by providing more evidence in another area. 

The full list of evidence required for each domain can be found on the GMC website here

Gathering Evidence for a CESR Application 

Domain 1 – Knowledge, skills and performance 


  • Primary Medical Qualification (PMQ) 
  • Specialist medical qualification(s) 
  • Curriculum or syllabus (if undertaken outside the UK) 
  • Specialist registration outside the UK 
  • Honours and prizes 
  • Other relevant qualifications 

Assessments and appraisals 

  • Appraisals and assessments 
  • RITAs, ARCPs and training assessments 
  • 360˚ and multi-source feedback 
  • Awards and discretionary points letters 
  • Personal development plans (PDP) 

Logbooks, records of daily clinical practice and portfolios 

  • Logbooks 
  • Consolidation, cumulative data sheets, summary lists and annual caseload statistics 
  • Medical reports 
  • Case histories 
  • Referral letters discussing patient handling 
  • Patient lists 
  • Departmental (or trust) workload statistics and annual caseload statistics 
  • Rotas, timetables and job plans 
  • Portfolios (electronic or revalidation) 

Details of posts and duties (including both training and experience posts) 

  • Employment letters and contracts of employment 
  • Job descriptions 
  • Job plans 

Research, publications and presentations 

  • Research papers, grants, patent designs 
  • Publications within specialty field 
  • Presentations, poster presentations 

CPD and CME 

  • CPD record certificates, certificates of attendance, workshops and at local, national and international meetings or conferences 
  • CPD registration points from UK Medical Royal College (or equivalent body overseas) 
  • Membership of professional bodies and organisations 
  • Teaching timetables 
  • Lectures 
  • Feedback or evaluation forms from those taught 
  • Letters from colleagues 
  • Attendance at teaching or appraisal courses 
  • Participation in assessment or appraisal and appointments processes 

Domain 2 – Safety and quality 

Participation in audit, service improvement 

  • Audits undertaken by applicant 
  • Reflective diaries 
  • Service Improvement and clinical governance meetings 


  • Health and safety 

Domains 3 - Communication, partnership and teamwork 


  • Colleagues 
  • Patients 

Partnership and teamwork 

  • Working in multidisciplinary teams 
  • Management and leadership experience 
  • Chairing meetings and leading projects 

Domain 4 – Maintaining trust 

Acting with honesty and integrity 

  • Honest and integrity 
  • Equality and human rights (including disability, human rights, race, religion and ethnicity awareness and equal opportunities) 
  • Data protection 

Relationships with patients 

  • Testimonials and letters from colleagues 
  • Thank you letters, cards from colleagues and patients 
  • Complaints and responses to complaints 

Additional areas of evidence 

Topics Covered in the MRCPsych Exams 

Paper A: 

  • Behavioural science and sociocultural psychiatry 
  • Basic psychology 
  • Social psychology 
  • Social science and sociocultural psychiatry  
  • Human development  
  • Basic neurosciences 
  • Neuroanatomy 
  • Neurophysiology  
  • Neurochemistry  
  • Molecular genetics 
  • Neuropathology  
  • Clinical psychopharmacology 
  • General principles 
  • Pharmacokinetics  
  • Pharmacodynamics 
  • Adverse drug reactions  
  • Classification and assessment in psychiatry 

Paper B: 

Organisation and delivery of psychiatric services  

General adult psychiatry  

  • Prevalence/incidence, aetiology, presentation, treatment and outcome of psychiatric disorder in adulthood  
  • Disorders related to pregnancy and childbirth  
  • General hospital psychiatry  
  • Emergency psychiatry  
  • Eating disorders  
  • Psychosexual disorders  

Old age psychiatry  


  • Dynamic psychotherapy  
  • Family therapy  
  • Cognitive-behavioural therapies  
  • Other therapeutic models  
  • Effectiveness of psychotherapy  
  • Group therapy  

Child and adolescent psychiatry  

Substance misuse/addictions  

Forensic psychiatry  

  • Relationship between crime and mental disorder  
  • Psychiatry and the criminal justice system  
  • Practicing psychiatry in a secure setting  
  • Human rights legislation as it affects patients and psychiatric practice  

Learning disability  

  • Services  
  • Epidemiology/Aetiology  
  • Clinical  

Research methods, statistics, critical review and evidence-based practice  

  • Translation of clinical uncertainty into an answerable question  
  • Systematic retrieval of the best available evidence  
  • Critical appraisal of the evidence  
  • Application of the results in practice  

Evaluation of performance 

All these topics covered in the MRCPsych exams can be found in the Core Training in Psychiatry curriculum.  

For more guidance on the different types of evidence, see the specialty specific guidance from the GMC for psychiatry

Validating the evidence  

Original documents which are on headed paper with a hospital stamp and original signatures do not need additional validation.  

All photocopied evidence should contain a hospital stamp on every page of each document, the validator’s name (printed and in full), job title (printed and in full) and original signature. 

Submitting a CESR Application 

All CESR applications are submitted online via GMC Online and if you have not already created an account, you can find a guide on how to do so here

Electronic evidence is required for each of the different evidence sections of the CESR application. Once started, the online application remains open for 12 months, meaning that it can be used as a portfolio to gather evidence against each of the different sections. 

Your electronic evidence can be in any of the following formats: 

  • .doc 
  • .pdf 
  • .ppt 
  • .xls 

Formats outside of these are unlikely to be accepted. 

The Online Application 

You will be required to complete the following sections once you begin your application: 

  • Specialty details 
  • Qualification details and professional experience 
  • Details of your referees 
  • Registration and licensing history 
  • Evidence summary 
  • Details of your verifiers 
  • Final declaration and payment 

Additional Evidence 

Once an Adviser on the Specialist Applications Team has reviewed your initial evidence, they will provide you with information on:  

  • What evidence they’ve accepted  
  • What evidence they’re unable to accept (including the reasons for this)  
  • Advice and guidance on how your application could be strengthened  

You’ll have up to 60 days to provide additional documentary evidence in support of your application (30 days if you’ve submitted a Review application). 

For further information about the online application process, see the GMC’s User Guide

The Cost of CESR Applications 

All psychiatrists applying for Specialist Registration must pay a fee. For CESR, this fee is £1,676. For CESR-CP and CCT, the cost is £439. 

How long does it take to receive a decision? 

The GMC estimate that it can take between six and eight months to receive a decision, from the date you submit your CESR application. 

How long does it take to complete?  

As there is a substantial amount of evidence to gather for a CESR application, the process of preparing all the necessary documentation and applying for CESR can take even longer than this, and a typical candidate will usually set out to complete this within 1 – 3 years. 

It is worth noting that more senior psychiatrists, such as consultants, are more likely to have achieved all the competences outlined in the curriculum. 

The indicative period of training for a CCT in psychiatry is six years, so it is highly unlikely that you would achieve the competencies required for a CCT in a shorter period of time. Therefore, CESR is not suitable for more junior psychiatrists. 

NHS Positions in the NHS without CESR 

It is important to note that you can apply for more senior psychiatry roles such as a specialty doctor (SAS), specialist grade or acting consultant without being on the Specialist Register. 

Similarly, overseas doctors do not require CESR before moving to the UK to work in the NHS. 

When compared to a trainee post, you will likely receive better pay and responsibilities that are more appropriate to your level of experience. While working in these positions, you can collect evidence of your competences, particularly those specific to the UK psychiatry curriculum. 

Across the UK there are several NHS Trusts with well-established CESR programmes of support for psychiatrists who have taken up a fixed term post with the view to completing CESR.  

These positions also facilitate a faster route to working in UK and attaining Specialist Registration when compared to making an application for CESR from overseas, which can take an additional amount of time.  

#IMG Tips 

  1. Research/think about the types of evidence you will need and begin to gather your evidence well in advance of making your application.  
  2. Gather evidence prospectively – this is much easier than retrospectively trying to pull together the evidence under additional pressures. 
  3. Make sure that your evidence is of the highest possible quality and is current – you will be assessed against the most recent curriculum.  
  4. Ensure that the evidence you collect demonstrates your competence across the whole of the psychiatry curriculum, not just your sub-specialty.    
  5. Remember to refer to the most up-to-date Psychiatry CCT Curriculum and Specialty Specific Guidance for the evidence requirements in your specialty.  
  6. Create a CESR ‘to-do list’ with sections under the GMC’s 4 domain headings – organise your evidence directly into these sections to manage your progress. 
  7. Do not submit original documents – all your copies, other than qualifications you’re getting authenticated must be accompanied by a proformas signed by the person who is attesting to the validity and accuracy of your evidence (your verifier). 
  8. Choose your referees carefully - they will need to be able to comment on direct observation of your clinical competences. At least six (from the last 5 years) are required but it would be preferable to give provide eight to ten (based on previous experience).  
  9. Reconstruct your CV from scratch so that it matches the application form - if you submit a CV that doesn’t contain the required information or you have not submitted all evidence as mentioned on the CV, this will delay your application.  
  10. Request a CV consultation with one of our experts
  11. Ask an IMG Connect recruitment specialist about NHS psychiatry posts with CESR support. These are not always advertised by a Trust, but we can help you find a role which aligns well with your career goals in the NHS. 
  12. Join the IMG Psychiatrists community – as well as support on Royal College exams, our online community of international psychiatrists and dedicated psychiatry recruiters offers guidance on other aspects of working in the UK, including finding NHS posts and CESR. 

Getting started 

Attaining Specialist Registration through the CESR pathway can be a long but very rewarding process. Look at our introduction to CESR for psychiatrists for a full overview. 

If you have any further questions about Specialist Registration, your route to the UK, or would like guidance in finding NHS posts which offer CESR support, please get in touch with us here.  

To receive the latest news and updates on all things psychiatry, including the Royal College, GMC registration and the NHS, follow us on social media and join the conversation. 



Search Vacancies

Ask a question

Check your salary

error: Content is protected !!