I was recently awarded the title FRCP (Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians) for my work as a Consultant Dermatologist – a huge honour and something I feel very proud of. “But, what exactly is a Consultant Dermatologist?” you might ask. “And what makes you different from from anyone else who gives skincare advice?”
I agree that it can be incredibly confusing to work out who is who with all the different terms and titles that get bandied about by medical professionals, like “Dermatologist”, “Cosmetic Dermatologist”, “Aesthetic Doctor” or “Aesthetic Practitioner”. To understand what sets a Consultant Dermatologist apart and why you should see one if you have concerns about your skin, have a read below:
1. What is dermatology
Dermatology is the branch of Medicine concerned with health of the skin, hair and nails. Consultant Dermatologists are medical physicians with the highest training and expertise in this field.
2. What training do Consultant Dermatologists receive?
In the UK, aspiring Dermatologists start by competing for a highly sought after place at Medical School. This medical degree takes approximately 5-6 years to complete, at the end of which students receive their primary medical qualification and can start to work as a doctor.
Following this, they undertake 2 years of general internal medicine training, usually in a hospital setting. During this time, they experience a number of different medical specialties to broaden their knowledge and are expected to take and pass a series of rigorous board examinations known as the MRCP (membership of the Royal College of Physicians).
Upon successful completion of this stage, doctors who are hoping to specialise in Dermatology compete again for what is known as a national training number in order to get onto a Dermatology Higher Specialist Training programme. Dermatology is one of the most popular and competitive medical specialties in the UK so only the top few applicants across the country will be accepted. This specialist training takes another 4 years on average and candidates will typically rotate through a number of hospitals to get the widest possible exposure to different skin conditions in this time.
At the end of this period, a specialist examination is taken called the Specialty Certificate Examination. If this is achieved and the doctor has also satisfied their trainers that they are safe and competent to practise independently, the doctor will be awarded a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) and be entered on the General Medical Council specialist register as a Consultant Dermatologist recognising that they are the only type of doctor with the requisite training and experience to treat patients with skin concerns that can’t be managed by a GP alone.
Some Consultant Dermatologists undertake even further qualifications, known as fellowships, if there is a particular field within Dermatology that they wish to sub-specialise in. For example, I was particularly interested in sun damage and skin cancer so I did a year-long fellowship in melanoma.
All of this means that most Consultant Dermatologists will have completed about 13-15 years of medical training before they earn the qualification, meaning they are the safest and most knowledgeable doctor to treat your skin concern.
3. Why should someone go see a Consultant Dermatologist?
Anyone who has a problem or concern about their skin can benefit from the advice of a Consultant Dermatologist. Examples of reasons to see a Dermatologist include inflammatory skin conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema or psoriasis, mole checks, skin cancer diagnosis and treatment to name a few. In the UK, you can see your NHS GP for advice first and they may refer you to an NHS Dermatology Department if they deem it appropriate or necessary. Appointments can alternatively be booked directly with the office of a Consultant Dermatologist for anybody who wishes to go privately.
It is important to remember that cosmetic skin concerns cannot be treated on the NHS.
4. How do you pick the right Dermatologist for you?
If you are being referred to an NHS Dermatology department, you may not have a choice as to which particular doctor you see, however they will either be a Consultant Dermatologist themselves or be under the supervision of one.
In the private sector, there are lots of healthcare practitioners claiming to be skin experts so it’s important to do your research before booking an appointment.
Firstly, check the General Medical Council (GMC) list of registered medical practitioners to confirm that the doctor is on the specialist register so that you can be assured of their training credentials. The list can be accessed here.
Next, ask friends and family (or your GP) if they have someone they can recommend from personal experience as this is a good way of filtering the options. Finally, take a look at the doctor’s website or biography to see if they have particular expertise in your condition and might be a good fit for you. For example, in the past few years my practice has focused predominantly on the treatment of acne and acne scarring so I am considered to have particular clinical expertise in this area, something that you will probably have noticed if you’ve read my blogs or looked at my website.
If you are struggling with a skin problem, like acne, and would like effective treatment from someone who knows how it feels to suffer with spots first hand, I’d be delighted to help. Please phone my team on 02037333225 to book an appointment to come and see me.
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