A specialty doctor's journey to the UK - Dr Kevin Li

  • June 28, 2022

Are you an overseas Psychiatrist looking to move to the UK? Have you always wanted to hear first-hand the experiences of an international Psychiatrist who has been through the process, from completing their MRCPsych exams to GMC registration, and from securing an NHS job to relocating to the UK?   

IMG Stories is our series introducing you to international doctors who we have helped to relocate to the UK - sharing their personal journeys from working overseas to securing a new job as a doctor in the NHS. 

Today we introduce Kevin Li, a brilliant psychiatry specialty doctor who relocated to the UK from Hong Kong in 2021. Having passed the MRCPsych and English language exams, Kevin received full GMC registration with license to practise. He is now working in the NHS at Lancashire & South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust in the north of England – where he is making a fantastic impact on the service and wider community.  

What motivated you to move to the UK? 

Psychiatrists are in demand in the UK and Hong Kong psychiatrists who have years of experiences would be very much welcomed to work in the country. With some NHS Trusts there is also a well-established CESR program to help overseas psychiatrists with MRCPsych to attain specialist registration. Specialist registration in the UK is also well recognised in a lot of other English speaking countries. 

Tell us about your journey through the Royal College of Psychiatry exams… 

I had completed my specialist training in Hong Kong quite some time ago. I only decided to sit the MRCPsych exams last year. Due to the pandemic, all exams were conducted online which actually facilitated a lot of Hong Kong doctors to sit for the exams. Having always been involved in training and supervision of junior psychiatrists, it helped me a lot to keep myself updated with the knowledge and skills required for sitting examinations.  

Do you have any tips or advice for overseas doctors who are currently working towards MRCPsych? 

For the MCQ based paper A and B, it is important to set aside time for some intensive studying before the exam as a lot of the knowledge asked would not come up in everyday work. It is also important to pay attention to minute details in each topic which would often come up in the exams.  

For CASC exams, it would be useful to form a study group with colleagues and have practice sessions together, as well as watching demonstration videos (such as some paid online courses) to learn the skill required to pass type of different stations. Time management (7 minutes) to complete the tasks in each station is also crucial.  

How did you manage to navigate and juggle the different aspects of registration whilst working full time? 

For overseas doctors having attained MRCPsych, registration with the GMC is fairly straightforward after taking an English proficiency exam, which should not be too difficult if one received medical education in English. 

However as the GMC closes an application if it could not be completed within 90 days, I found it important to have all the documents ready prior to submitting the application, especially letter of good standings, further proof of qualification and training from the university faculty which took time to be prepared. 

Did you have any major or unexpected issues with the GMC registration process or your visa application? 

There had been no major difficulties in terms of the registration. The HR team and IMG connect have been in constant touch with me to see what my needs are and accommodate my relocation schedule. 

How did you find a general adult psychiatry job within the NHS? 

For Hong Kong doctors coming to the UK, it is better to look for job openings that specifically states that IMG applicants are welcome. It would usually take IMGs quite a while to adapt to the system in the NHS and it is important that the Trust would give time for induction and support for IMGs during the initial phrase when they start their job.  

It is also good to keep one’s mindset open to offers in locations that might not be the most popular at first look. Posts in popular locations such as Greater London or Greater Manchester are usually a lot more competitive and the support provided to IMGs could be less sometimes. It would also be a good opportunity to experience life in the UK out of the usual few big cities. There are always opportunities to move to another place after gaining experiences working in the UK. 

Tell us about a day in the life of an international General Adult Psychiatrist, newly started in the NHS… 

As a specialty doctor with the MRCPsych qualification, one is expected to take an active role in the MDT team with the support of the Consultant, for example on deciding on medications, deriving a care package with other stakeholders.  

There is a strong focus on mental health legal and human rights compliance in the field of psychiatry, as well as adherence to treatment guidelines in the UK. Some doctors may need certain time to adjust to such differences in practice from their home countries. There are junior doctors who can readily assist with physical problems of patients, which might make it easier for an Hong Kong psychiatry specialist to adapt after years of working in psychiatric setting only.  

What was your journey like to the UK during a period of COVID-19 restrictions? 

I arrived at a time when restrictions were gradually easing. It was very easy to arrange mandatory COVID tests according to the government requirements. Most hotels or airbnbs would welcome arrivals into the UK to be used as self-isolation.  

What has been your experience working with IMG Connect? 

I had received excellent support from IMG connect in terms of securing a job offer that suits my level and experiences, as well as advising on the career prospect and negotiating an attractive numeration package. The IMG connect team also gave me a lot of useful suggestions about finding accommodation in a suitable area close to work.  

Most importantly they have excellent communication with the HR team in the Trust, which makes formalizing the offer and completing the necessary paper works much easier. 

Moving to live and work in the UK is a big decision to make but can be massively rewarding in many ways. International doctors have the chance to find a new home and the NHS presents an incredible opportunity to secure rewarding jobs, progress within their field and explore adjacent opportunities such as CESR (for non-EEA doctors), writing publications and research. Whatever route an overseas doctor may take on their journey to the UK, IMG Connect is here to support them through every step and welcome them to the IMG Connect family.   


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