CESR Journey – by Dr Hal Abdullahi

My CESR Journey – by Dr Hal Abdullahi

On completion of a 5-year psychiatric residency training programme and attainment of fellowship of the West African College of Physicians (Psychiatry), I voyaged to the UK via the MTI scheme and completed the MRCPsych examinations in that time. I subsequently had to choose between higher specialist training in general psychiatry and an offer of a locum consultant psychiatrist job. For largely personal reasons I opted for the latter.

If you think about the Transtheoretical model’s stages of change, then you would better appreciate the phases I went throughto successfully achieve specialist registration via the CESR pathway as I exemplify next;


I was pretty comfortable with the thoughts of working as a locum consultant long term and struggled to find a reason to commit to a potentially laborious, bureaucratic and expensive process which would culminate in gaining recognition to do the job I was already doing.


I then started to ponder about my future employability. I came to realize that specialist registration was a pre-requisite for substantive consultant posts in the United Kingdom. I noted that certain opportunities required that one held substantive consultant posts for a period of time. However, there was a barrage of discouraging feedback from CESR predecessors about the tediousness of the process.


I attended CESR workshops, spoke to a colleague who successfully applied for specialist registration via this route and came to a conclusion that my future self would be thankful to be on the UK specialist register. I knew I had to gather most of the relevant evidence prospectively.


So, I had to familiarize myself with the GMC’s specialty specific guidance for general psychiatry. I got conversant with the intended learning outcomes as described in “a competency-based curriculum for specialist training” in general psychiatry. I then created a CESR ‘to do list’ made up of evidence I was expected to provide and had to organize them into folders with GMC’s domains of good medical practice in mind as listed below.

Domain 1 – Knowledge, skills and performance

  • CV
  • Primary medical qualification
  • Specialist medical qualification(s)
  • Curriculum or syllabus
  • Specialist registration outside the UK. 
  • Honors and prizes
  • Other relevant qualifications
  • Assessment and appraisals
  • WPBAs – with what would make for a successful ARCP outcome for an ST6 in general psychiatry as a reference point.
  • 360˚ and multi-source feedback – within the past 5 years.
  • Awards and discretionary points letters
  • Personal development plans (PDP)
  • Logbook – You can use the sample table on the specialty specific guidance as a guide to produce a log of clinical activity to help evaluators to understand the type and volume of work you undertake.
  • Consolidation, cumulative data sheets, summary lists and annual caseload statistics – A separate consolidation report is not required in psychiatry.
  • Medical Report – Approximates with case histories.
  • Case Histories – At least 30 case histories. I provided about 35.
  • Referral letters discussing patient handling – At least 25 referral letters.
  • Patient lists
  • Departmental (or trust) workload statistics and annual caseload statistics – Evidence not mandatory for general psychiatry.
  • Rotas, timetables and job plans
  • Portfolios –Cross reference with WPBAs above.
  • Employment letters and contracts of employment – Should match CV.
  • Job descriptions
  • Research papers, grants, patent designs
  • Publications within specialty field
  • Presentations, poster presentations
  • CPD record certificates, certificates of attendance, workshops and at local, national and international meetings or conferences –to cover all aspects of my work and show the breadth of my practice.
  • CPD registration points from RCPsych – CPD log and certificate of good standing.
  • Membership of professional bodies and organizations
  • 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

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

Domain 3 – Communication, partnership and teamwork

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

Domain 4 – Maintaining trust

  • Honesty and integrity –
  • Equality and human rights (including disability, human rights, race, religion and ethnicity awareness and equal opportunities).
  • Data protection
  • Testimonials and letters from colleagues
  • Thank-you letters, cards from colleagues and patients
  • Complaints and responses to complaints

Apart from authenticated overseas evidence that had to be sent in hardcopies to the GMC, the rest of the application was done online.


I benefited immensely from information shared during CESR workshops, networking with others preparing to put forward a CESR application, constructive feedback from colleagues who supervised my workplace-based assessments, support from my past supervisors especially with verification of evidence and the helpful detailed references from referees.Encouragement from mentors/friends as well assupport from my family were crucial when the going got somewhat tough and getting me across the line.


It took approximately 2 years from pre-contemplation to a successful outcome which was communicated via an email from my GMC specialist applications adviser. I remember telling my wife about the outcome as we drove home from work and we were both ecstatic as webreathed a sigh of relief! I was so happy I checked the GMC specialist register a few times that day to ‘re-confirm’ the decision.

It was the exception to have a successful decision following a first application so (as a back-up plan) I was gathering further evidence in anticipation of a rejection and with plans to re-apply a second time. Fortunately, re-applying has become unnecessary.      

CESR is definitely doable…

This document will also help you prepare for CESR

Facebook Profile of Dr Abdullahi = https://www.facebook.com/hal.abdul

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