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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Planning a Portfolio Career

To contact the Psychiatrists' Support Service please telephone: 020 7245 0412  or e-mail:

The term ‘portfolio’ career is when a psychiatrist undertakes a variety of activities, rather than being in full-time employment with a single employer.  This frequently follows retirement from the National Health Service (NHS), but may occur at any point of your career.


What may be in a portfolio?

This table is not exhaustive, but indicates the variety of possible commitments a portfolio psychiatrist may have.


Possible commitments of a portfolio psychiatrist




Professional, clinical

  • Independent private

  • Employed private

  • Locum

  • Mental health review tribunal

  • Disability assessment

  • Mental Health Act work

  • Parole board work

  • Teaching/ lectures

  • Advice for Committees

  • Clinical, Voluntary, Overseas

Indirectly Professional/ Non-Clinical

  • Inquiries

  • Consulting

  • Professional writing

  • Project work

  • Research

  • Medical journalism

  • Work for voluntary organisations



Psychiatrists cannot remain passively on the General Medical Council (GMC) Medical Register. Each psychiatrist will have to meet the requirements for revalidation and recertification for specialist practice, which includes an annual appraisal covering your entire scope of practice.


All doctors on the GMC general register will have to be revalidated on a 5-yearly basis. This is based on the Good Medical Practice guidance (GMC, 2013) and will include:

  • Annual appraisal including a standardised module agreed by the GMC.
  • Independent 360-degree (multi-source) feedback.

Any issues concerning the doctor’s conduct or practice should have been resolved before the appraisal to the satisfaction of the responsible officer (usually the medical director) and the regional GMC affiliate.


Doctors with a portfolio career still need to revalidate to continue in many of their roles. To do this, you will still require a responsible officer, and need to undertake annual appraisal which covers your entire scope of practice.


The Royal college of Psychiatrists runs a Revalidation helpdesk. You can find more information here.


Independent practice

Data Protection

To comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, you must register with the Information Commissioner’s Office ( if you hold records containing ‘person-sensitive information’: date of birth, ethnicity, confidential case notes, etc.



Check that your workplace is registered and inspected under the Care Standards Act 2000. Unless there is a good clinical reason, avoid seeing patients at their home, in the your home, in isolated facilities or without a chaperone (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2007).


Financial Matters

For many portfolio doctors it is advantageous to be self- employed for tax purposes, as more professional expense are allowable. It is very important, as well as a legal requirement, to keep clear financial records, including copies of incoming and outgoing invoices.

If you are employing staff, one of the easiest ways to organise your finances is through an accountant with a payroll department. They can advise on all aspects of pay, including tax and national insurance liability, contracts, grievance procedures and employer’s liability insurance.


Pension Arrangements

Before you decide to reduce or cease full-time paid employment, it is advisable to check your pension position. The NHS Business Services Authority ( will be able to tell you what your entitlement is, NHS HR may also be able to help. If you still have questions, the British Medical Association (BMA) can offer advice Beyond this, professional financial advice attuned to the needs of doctors may be helpful.


If a proportion of your income comes from a non-NHS source, you may also want to consider contributing to a private pension scheme. A good independent financial adviser can provide further details on this. Paying a small monthly amount is often a relatively painless way of contributing and you can also supplement this with a lump sum at the end of the tax year.


Voluntary Work

Many psychiatrists support the work of voluntary organisations, such as Age Concern, Young Minds, Mencap, the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, the Samaritans, etc. If you are working in a voluntary capacity, you still need to maintain professional requirements, especially when seeing patients. This may need clarification with the organisation concerned and there may be funds available for training and the necessary CPD. Some organisations pay expenses only. The Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO; offers well-organised opportunities for specialist work abroad.



Which group within the college can help me?

The Postgraduate Educational Services Department can advise on CPD requirements. There is also a network of regional CPD advisers. The Private and Independent Practice Special Interest Group (PIPSIG) helps to promote good practice and brings together doctors in the same position. Faculties are also developing standards and are a source of up-to-date information.


How can I get an appraisal or supervision if I am working outside a managed organisation?

Some NHS trusts provide appraisals for their recently retired or part-time consultants. Even if your trust does not operate such a scheme, it may be worth asking, as some employers will provide appraisal if requested. This should follow the current NHS template, which is available online ( When having an appraisal, you should ensure that you present evidence, such as audits and patient surveys, for all the situations you work in. It is also important that you demonstrate that you can reflect.

The Private and Independent Practice Special Interest Group (PIPSIG) at the Royal College has information that will support doctors who work outside a managed organisation.


What are the CPD requirements?

The College system requires50 hours of CPD per year, in a number of domains, including clinical CPD. CPD submissions are now made online subject to approval by you PDP group.


Do I have to keep up with CPD requirements if I am retired or work part-time?

CPD is about helping to promote good practice. It is essential for all those continuing to work with patients to maintain CPD requirements.


How can I find a CPD group?

College conferences and Faculty meetings are good places for making contacts. Look for others in the same position as yourself.


What is ‘multi-source feedback’ and how do I get it?

Multi-source feedback or360-degree appraisal is for Psychiatrists are questionnaires  sent to a large number of colleagues, juniors, other staff and service users to get an overall view of clinical practice. There are various systems available, but not all may be suited to all forms of practice. It is compulsory for relicensing and recertification. 

Do I need to have medical indemnity cover?

The College strongly advises practitioners to take out adequate insurance or professional indemnity cover for any part of their practice which is not covered by an employer’s indemnity scheme, in patients’ interests as well as your their own.



References and further reading

GENERAL MEDICAL COUNCIL (2013) Good Medical Practice framework for appraisal and Revalidation. GMC


GENERAL MEDICAL COUNCIL (2012) Supporting information for appraisal and Revalidation. GMC


GENERAL MEDICAL COUNCIL (2013) Good Medical Practice. GMC


GUNN, J. (2007) CPD and the portfolio psychiatrist. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment,

13, 157–160.


ROYAL COLLEGE OF PSYCHIATRISTS (2014) Supporting information for appraisal and revalidation: guidance for psychiatrists (CR194). Royal College of Psychiatrists.



Sources of further help and support

HM Revenue & customs






The information can be used as a guide only and is not a substitute for professional advice. If you need further advice and support, please contact the Psychiatrists’ Support Service.


© Royal College of Psychiatrists 2016

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If you require advice and support about a particular issue then please contact the Psychiatrists' Support Service at the Royal College of Psychiatrists on 0207 245 0412 or email

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