Electives in UK by Dr Bilal Ahmad

My name is Dr Bilal Ahmad and I am currently doing my House Job in one of the tertiary care hospital, Islamabad Pakistan. I am writing this blog to share with you my first hand clinical electives experience in London UK.


It was my 4th year of medical school, when I start thinking of going abroad and gain clinical electives experience. The very first thought in my mind was USA, I applied via med clerkships company and I got electives placement in the University of Maryland School of medicine, Baltimore. I was enthusiastic and happy but unfortunately things didn’t went well, and my visa was rejected by the US embassy without letting me know why? That was the time when, I start searching for clinical attachments in UK.

At the beginning, I randomly Google different hospital and universities in the UK. I prioritize top universities like Oxford, Cambridge, Kings College, and Imperial College London. It was the start of my 5th year medical school, when I start contacting them via email. Universities like Oxford, Cambridge you have to apply at least a year ahead, because what I learned is most of the placements were booked, and I was told to apply next year in advance and moreover IELTS score of 6.5 bands is mandatory and you have to pay around 800 pounds more or less for the placement, you will get better idea by searching their academic department.

When I contacted imperial college London, I got positive response and booked 6 months ahead of my starting date of electives. However, IELTS was also mandatory for ICL and a total band of 6.5 overall was required. I took IELTS and cleared it in first attempt, after getting sponsorship letter for electives placement I applied for UK study visa and got my visa in two weeks. In brief, Google all the universities and email them, it will give you a better idea of the time frame.


I landed in London UK in NOV 2019, when it took my final year exam. I started my clinical electives in bariatric surgery at Saints Marys hospital London NHS trust one of the largest hospital of ICL. Everything was very different, as it was my first traveling abroad and the new healthcare system compared to our country, Pakistan. On the very first, we got our ICL student card, biometric access card to different departments and orientation round in which we visited different departments, especially where penicillin was discovered.

During the 4 weeks, I observed many sleeve gastrectomy, gastric bypass, gastric banding and lower GI surgeries. We did ward rounds and took histories, apart from Saints Marys hospital we also visited charring cross and Hammersmith’s hospital where we observed cardiac bypass and balloon valvuloplasty. At the end of rotation we were issued official certificates of the elective placement.


It takes some time to get use to the new environment, you will be fine in a week. On every weekend and at the end of the day, I went to many museums, recreational parks all around the London. I also went to Scotland after finishing my electives and travelled all around Edinburgh, the old streets of Edinburgh which reflects the historical rich culture is the sight-seeing places to visit. 


If you are a student you would need short term study visa which is 6 months. I don’t know about other visa categories. Do prepare all the documents before applying for a visa, the utmost necessary stage.


Firstly short term visa cost me around 90£ (20k). Return Air ticket cost around 700£ (140,000). Electives placement fee was 600£. If you have family in London you don’t know to worry about food and accommodation, which in my point of view cost you the most. London is a very expensive city, it is very difficult to find a 600£ room out there. Still it depends, if you are looking for accommodation near central London it will cost you 2000£ around. But if you go for greater London, you can find a room for 1000£ or less but still it’s hard and required a lot of search.

For travelling I would say it’s very convenient in London, you don’t need a personal car, and you do need an oyster card to travel in tube and transit bus. A 3 times meal a day would cost you around 15-20£ but still I would say depend on the location where you live in London. In short I would say you do need at least an extra amount of 1,000£ in your pocket excluding traversing out of London.


When you wish to do an elective abroad, money shouldn’t be a problem for you, as it can cost you more depending on your life style.

I hope you understood everything well.

Let me know if you have any query.

Thank you

Dr Bilal Ahmad’s Email: bilala925@gmail.com