NHS Education for Scotland Logo

Scottish Medical Training

Scotland - the home of medical excellence

Speciality: Medical Oncology

Programme Description
GMC Reference: SES/428

GMC Reference: SES/428

Why choose this programme:

Medical oncologists are physicians who have specialised in the assessment and management of patients with cancer. Physicians trained in this specialty aim to provide the best possible outcome for cancer patients, whether that is cure, or palliation and prolongation of good quality life. Medical oncologists work in multi-disciplinary teams and treat cancer with systemic drugs, and administer these therapies to patients who either have localised or metastatic malignancy in need of systemic therapy or whose cancer has potentially been cured by surgery but for whom further adjuvant systemic therapy improves their outlook. As part of that role they also manage the complications of disease and/or treatments and help guide other physicians in the investigations of patients with cancer of unknown primary.

Specialty Information:

There are currently 24 Scottish training posts based in 4 centres.

  • Aberdeen has 3 NTNs (North of Scotland) and is based at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary
  • Dundee has 2 NTNs (East of Scotland) and is based at Ninewells Hospital
  • Edinburgh has 8NTNs (South East Scotland) and is based at the Western General Hospital.
  • Glasgow has 11 NTNs (West of Scotland) and is based at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, Glasgow

Trainees based in Aberdeen or Dundee will spend 6 to 12 months equivalent in either Edinburgh or Glasgow, in order to fulfil requirements for the more uncommon tumour types. The timing and location of these attachments is decided in consultation with the individual trainees. The Scottish training programmes gives trainees the opportunity to understand the challenges of managing patients scattered over wide geographical areas either by travelling to peripheral hospitals to undertake clinics in cancer units or by appreciating the distances that patients travel to the cancer centres for treatment. The specialty in Scotland is committed to excellence in laboratory and clinical research and the day-to-day relevance of translational research is emphasised with a focus on participation in clinical trials. While out of programme research is not mandated in the training curriculum, there is an expectation that the if trainees wishes to gain out of programme research this will supported allowing them to gain a higher degree in research often at research centres linked to the cancer centre.  Other trainees however have opted instead to undertake a postgraduate teaching qualification and some go straight through training.

General Information

Each city has a high standard of living, with large numbers of cultural and sporting opportunities and excellent transport links to the rest of UK and Europe. There is easy access from all of the centres to the beautiful and diverse Scottish countryside, which includes the renowned Highlands, stunning beaches and a plethora of Islands to explore. For those who wish to experience total peace and quiet, Scotland still has large areas of true wilderness only accessible by boat or on foot. For the outdoor enthusiast activities include hill-walking, mountaineering, water-sports, fishing and an abundance of wildlife to see. There is rich Cultural Heritage and a vibrant Arts community.

Scotland has a highly renowned and integrated health system that has opted not to have the commissioning system.   

Training information

Trainees complete either 2 years or 3 of internal medicine training or the acute care common stem in acute medicine (ACCS) and enter medical oncology training at ST3 level.

Comprehensive training is provided according to the College Curriculum in all aspects of Medical Oncology. They will undertake a common stem year in ST3 that is the same for Medical and Clinical Oncology this will allow them if they wish to switch between the specialties at the end of the year when they enter ST4 through reapplying at the next national recruitment round if they wish (only required if switching specialties). Medical Oncology is a 4 year programme during their training trainees will be assigned an educational supervisor who will guide them through their training. They will rotate through a series of tumour specialties in 4 or 6 month blocks as well as undertake periods of selected acute receiving of patients presenting with complications from their cancer or treatments. Trainees will visit peripheral hospitals with consultant colleagues specialising in 1 or 2 tumour types within the regions to attend clinics and multidisciplinary meetings. There are close links with the allied specialties of Medical Oncology and Palliative Medicine and the other relevant surgical and medical specialities.

Each Scottish centre takes pride in the high level of pastoral care they offer, ensuring their trainees have excellent work/life balance, and we have many trainees who have opted for less than full time training. Trainees attend regular subspecialist national masterclass training days, and there is regular departmental teaching in all centres. The Scottish training programme has a unique 2 month block of specialist Radiology Cell Biology and physics teaching, as well as teaching in statistics and pharmacology which is for ST3 trainees in both medical and clinical oncology. This regional teaching is run in person as well as via MS teams. All trainees will have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials with options to run phase I and II trials.

The role of the medical oncologist is to use high-level communication skills to fully involve patients in treatment decisions, and counsel patients and families on cancer genetics, screening and preventative measures.

Doctors considering a career in medical oncology are very welcome to organise taster weeks if they have not had previous exposure to the specialty.

Research, audit, teaching and management opportunities

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary

Situated in the heart of the ‘Silver City with the Golden sands’, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary is a University Teaching Hospital (affiliated to both the University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon’s University). It has over 900 in-patient beds and all major medical surgical and medical specialities coexist on the same site. Aberdeen Royal Infirmary currently has 2 NTNs in Medical Oncology. Trainees work closely with the Consultant Clinical and Medical Oncologists in tumour site-specific teams. Trainees are involved in teaching, audit and research from the start, and Out of Programme Experience is encouraged. There is an active Clinical Trials Unit with an extensive portfolio covering all common tumour types.

Aberdeen consistently scores highly in relation to schooling and quality of life, and certainly the dry cool climate and proximity to both coast and countryside allows for a huge variety of outdoor pursuits. Although perceived as being in the ‘far north’, Aberdeen has excellent transport links by rail, road and air, consistent with its place as the ‘Energy Capital of Europe’. 

Western General Hospital, Edinburgh

Edinburgh scored top in the UK in a 2015 survey for quality of life. The medical oncology training programme has 8 trainees and the programme consistently scores high marks in the trainee surveys. There is a close knit team of oncology consultants who consistently prioritise training and teaching and there is an established teaching programme for registrars.

Edinburgh hosts the Edinburgh festival every year in August which is the world’s largest art festival and also has vibrant sporting and cultural activities available throughout the year as well as being within easy driving reach of the Highlands, North England and also excellent flight connections to Europe and beyond. 

Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, Glasgow

The Beatson is the second largest cancer centre in the UK and serves approximately half of the population of Scotland (roughly 2.5 million catchment).

There are currently 11 NTNs, one of which is an academic (SCREDS) post with 20% of time devoted to research.

There is a dedicated clinical trials unit, the Beatson is currently participating in over 160 clinical trials, including multicentre international trials run from the centre.

There are close links with the research laboratories and the Institute for Cancer Sciences at Glasgow University and CRUK at the Beatson Institute.

A number of Medical Oncology trainees undertake higher degrees out of programme at these laboratories.

There is an annual Medical Oncology research forum at which trainees present their own research. They are given advice and support in the choice and development of their projects, some of which have resulted in international presentations.

Flexible training is fully supported and a number of our current trainees and consultants remain Less than full time. The recent national training survey has been very positive with increasing satisfaction among its trainees who feel fully supported.  The Beatson itself is within a few minutes’ walk of the nearest train station at Hyndland.

Glasgow has benefitted from the facilities developed for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, with a number of international sporting events such as the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, taking place.

There is a vibrant music and arts culture in the City, with a number of excellent venues and festivals. The major museums and art galleries, such as the Burrell Collection, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, The Gallery of Modern Art and the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery are free to enter.

The Loch Lomond National park is within thirty minutes’ drive from North Glasgow. It is possible to kayak on Loch Lomond on a summer evening and dry off on the banks in the late evening sunshine at 10 pm!

Glasgwegians take pride in their friendliness, and one motto of the Commonwealth Games was ‘People make Glasgow’. 

Ninewells Hospital, Dundee

Dundee is Scotland’s fourth largest city and enjoys a central location on the river Tay, with easy access to Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Highlands. It has always been a hub for design and innovation and in 2014 was awarded the UKs first UNESCO city of design. It is also home to a thriving biomedical technology industry and two large Universities, Abertay and Dundee, which is ranked 1st in Scotland and 4th in the UK for Medicine. It offers a fantastic quality of life with great value for money in terms of housing and schooling.  Beautiful beaches and most leisure activities are available close by with particularly good facilities for hill walking, climbing, sailing, skiing and golf. 

Ninewells Hospital and Medical School is a major general teaching hospital. In addition to a comprehensive range of medical, surgical and critical care services it houses one of Scotland’s Regional Cancer Centres and provides, on a single site, all Surgical, Radiotherapy, and Chemotherapy services. The hospital is a designated Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) and the oncology department enjoys strong links with the University with an extensive programme of cancer research undertaken on the Ninewells site.

We currently have 2 NTNs. Training is based in the Tayside Cancer Centre, which consists of a 26-bedded ward; a 12 bedded 5-day chemotherapy unit; a chemotherapy day area and an outpatient department.

We are a friendly, cohesive, forward-looking department of Clinical and  Medical Oncology Consultants working within site-specific multidisciplinary teams. Teaching, Audit, Quality Improvement work and Out of Programme Experience both in research and education (OOPE) are actively encouraged. Ultimately we endeavour to ensure that our trainees enjoy a supportive environment and training, which is tailored to meet their individual needs.

Where is the training delivered?
Training is delivered across:

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Beatson (the) West of Scotland Cancer Centre, Glasgow, University Hospital Crosshouse, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Inverclyde Royal Hospital, Greenock, University Hospital Monklands, Airdrie, Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, Perth Royal Infirmary, Queen Margaret Hospital, Dunfermline, Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow, Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, Falkirk and District Royal Infrmary

Training is delivered across Scotland:

West of Scotland: Beatson West of Scotland Oncology Centre, Glasgow with peripheral clinics at Crosshouse Hospital, Falkirk Royal Infirmary, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Inverclyde Royal Hospital, Monklands General Hospital, Stobhill General Hospital.

North of Scotland: Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

East of Scotland: Ninewells Hospital, Dundee with peripheral clinics in Perth Royal Infirmary, Queen Margaret Hospital, Dunfermline.

South East of Scotland: Edinburgh Cancer Centre with peripheral clinics in Kirkcaldy.

Contacts and Useful Links
Programme Type Deanery based or National: National
Administration office West of Scotland
Lead Dean / Director Professor Alastair McLellan
Responsible Associate Postgraduate Dean or Assistant Director (GP) Dr Clive Goddard
Specialty or Sub-specialty Specialty or Sub-specialty: Specialty
Date of GMC recent approval August 2010
Associated Royal College - Faculty
Joint Royal Colleges of Physicians Training Board (web site)
Curriculum and Associated Assessment System
Programme Administrator: Named Programme Administrator: Tayler Scott
Address: NHS Education for Scotland, 2 Central Quay, 89 Hydepark Street, Glasgow G3 8BW
Programme Director Programme Director Name: Dr Ashita Waterston
Quality of Training Quality Management

How to Apply

Search Specialty
Training Opportunities