Chief Registrar Programme

Chief Registrar Image

The RCP Chief Registrar Programme is our flagship leadership development programme for trainee doctors who are committed to quality improvement.

The chief registrar role is a senior leadership role for doctors. This programme develops the clinical leaders of the future and supports chief registrars to ensure NHS organisations deliver the highest quality of treatment and care for patients.

One of the key recommendations highlighted by the Future Hospital Commission report was the need to create a senior leadership role for trainee doctors, which would focus on delivering high-quality, safe patient care.

The RCP responded by establishing the Chief Registrar Programme. The role provides protected time for doctors in training to practise leadership and quality improvement while remaining in clinical practice. The role is supported by a bespoke 10-month development programme designed and delivered by the RCP.

Chief registrars: 

  • provide a vital bridge between senior clinical leaders, managers and the wider trainee workforce
  • address local challenges and priorities around service improvement, education and training, engagement and morale, workforce and sustainability
  • collaborate across teams and traditional boundaries to deliver better outcomes for patients, teams and services, increasing efficiency and reducing costs. 

Chief Registrar Programme 2024/25

Expressions of interest for recruiting NHS organisations for the 2024/25 are now closed.  Local recruitment will be running until mid-June 2024 (deadlines decided individually at trust level). If you are interested in applying for a role, please see this LIST OF POSTS BY TRUST

To find out more about our upcoming programmes, as an NHS organisation or trainee, please email

What the programme involves

The 10-month programme consists of five 2-day modules taught by RCP educationalists and experts in quality improvement. Modules will be spread over the course of the programme and cover the following topics: 

  • change management
  • team culture and development
  • quality improvement
  • leadership
  • influencing
  • personal resilience. 

As a result of the development programme, chief registrars will: 

  • gain aptitude and confidence as senior leaders
  • achieve a deeper understanding of their own and others’ styles 
  • have the technical knowledge and skills to lead continuous quality improvement
  • be invited to join the Chief Registrar Alumni Network, where you can meet other chief registrars from different year groups, attend exclusive webinars and workshops and continue to engage with the RCP.

Key criteria for recruitment:

  • open to all physician and non-physician specialties
  • doctors in training must be minimum ST4 level or equivalent
  • posts must be for a minimum of 12 months
  • doctors in training must have 40–50% of their time protected for chief registrar activities
  • the role may be carried out in programme or out of programme (training or experience). 

To find out more about the Chief Registrar Programme as an NHS organisation or trainee, please email

Guidance for trainee doctors

What do chief registrars do? 

Chief registrars work in clinical practice and have 40–50% of their time protected to develop, lead and support projects which focus on key local challenges and priorities. This may include service improvement, engagement and morale, education and training, workforce and sustainability.

What are the benefits?

The benefits of being a chief registrar include:

  • greater skills and confidence in leadership, management and quality improvement through the RCP development programme
  • valuable evidence for consultant job applications of applying leadership, management and service improvement skills in practice
  • ability to gain leadership and management experience while remaining in clinical practice
  • mentorship from a senior clinical leader in the organisation
  • unique insight into NHS structures and management processes that is rare in clinical training
  • peer support from a strong community of chief registrars, who are a great source of ideas for projects and advice on issues and challenges
  • the opportunity to act on and test ideas to improve outcomes for patients, teams and services, supported by the knowledge of how to do this effectively using quality improvement methodology
  • the chance to make a difference for trainees by improving their working lives and making sure their voice is heard. 

Chief registrars also benefit from the autonomy to focus on their own areas of interest, and the flexibility to manage their time appropriately to balance clinical and chief registrar commitments. 

The chief registrar role is challenging and demanding. However, the opportunities for personal and professional development and support are abundant, and help chief registrars to overcome any challenges they face.

Read the 2022–23 yearbook to gain an insight into some of the projects led by chief registrars.

Getting a new NHS organisation on board

If you want to approach an NHS organisation about establishing a chief registrar role, please talk to your training programme director (TPD) in the first instance. Then contact the organisation's medical director (or relevant deputy) and direct them to the information for recruiting organisations, where you can also find information to support a business case.

Please bear in mind that organisations run open and competitive recruitment processes. Therefore, there is a possibility your application may not be successful.

RCP Chief Registrar Programme podcast

Listen to two RCP chief registrar alumni, Will and Lily, talk about their unique experience of taking part in the programme in different parts of the UK – Birmingham (University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust) and London (Barts Health NHS Trust), specialising in completely different areas of medicine. Will and Lily share why they signed up, what the programme was really like, and explain how they grew as a person as well as a leader. Listen to the podcast here.

Recruitment guidance for NHS organisations

Recruitment process and deadlines

Recruitment of chief registrars is coordinated and carried out locally by NHS organisations, but follows the steps and timeline set out by the RCP below. Further information is available in the Guidance for recruiting organisations document.

Expressing an interest

Before starting recruitment, NHS organisations should complete an expression of interest form and return it to to reserve a provisional place(s) on the Chief Registrar Programme. If we do not receive an expression of interest, we will not be able to reserve an indicative place for a chief registrar from your organisation. 

Once an indicative place has been reserved, and you have received confirmation from the Royal College of Physicians, the organisation can then procced to recruit a chief registrar. When all the indicative places have been allocated, organisations will be placed on a waiting list and offered an indicative place when one becomes available.

The RCP has expanded the Chief Registrar Programme to all physician and non-physician specialties in response to demand. We encourage you to take an organisation-wide overview of which departments your chief registrar(s) will be located in. 

Funding arrangements

Costs associated with recruiting a chief registrar vary according to whether the role is carried out in or out of programme. The cost per place is £4,219 (VAT exempt).

Expressions of interest can be submitted before funding arrangements are confirmed, but recruiting organisations must provide the RCP with an update on recruitment. This is so any places which have not been recruited to can be reallocated to other organisations. 

Starting recruitment

Once you have expressed an interest, and received confirmation of your place, your NHS organisation can start the recruitment process. The RCP can provide you with a sample job description and other useful documents, tailored to your local requirements. Should you wish to make significant changes to the job description, please discuss this with the RCP. 

Confirming appointment of your chief registrar

Please let us know as soon as you have recruited your chief registrar. To do this please complete the appointment details form and return it to we do not receive confirmation that you have or are appointing a chief registrar, we reserve the right to re-allocate the indicative place to an organisation on the waiting list.