Medical oncology is a dynamic and rapidly evolving speciality which involves both cutting edge research and a commitment to the care of a varied and often complex patient group.
Medical oncology trainee characteristics
Medical oncology will particularly suit trainees who:
- have good communication skills
- enjoy practising evidence-based medicine; by analysing and adapting the results of recent research in order to optimise patient outcomes
- are interested in a broad spectrum of academic research, including basic and translational science and clinical trials
- can work as part of a multidisciplinary team, including surgical oncologists, clinical oncologists, palliative care physicians, radiologists, pathologists, and clinical nurse specialists.
Working in medical oncology
One third of the UK population will develop cancer during their lifetime and the majority will undergo specialist treatments aimed at eradicating or controlling the cancer to maximise quality of life and patient outcomes.
This burden of disease has led to high levels of government funding for clinical and research posts in medical oncology.
The remit of medical oncology is broad, ranging from pure translational or clinical research to management of a wide variety of patients with acute and chronic illnesses in the clinical setting.
Underlying these diverse aspects of medical oncology practice is the necessity to regularly assimilate the changing evidence base which results from the high level of active research in the speciality.
This, and the ability to work collegially with surgeons, clinical oncologists, radiologists, palliative care physicians and clinical nurse specialists are the key attributes needed to progress in this field.
The treatment of cancer has evolved rapidly within the last decade, and the United Kingdom remains at the forefront of this research. Due to a growing understanding of the molecular biology of malignancy, emerging therapies can now be personalised to target the genetic or proteomic phenotype of each patient's cancer.
Medical oncologists are the key specialists at the core of this 'bench to bedside' research. One of the aims of medical oncology is therefore to progress the results of molecular and genomic laboratory research into large-scale clinical trials of novel agents which may offer meaningful benefit to patients with cancer.
In order to encourage this physician scientist approach, many trainees will pursue a higher degree as part of their specialist registrar programme (MD or PhD). New discoveries and developments in cancer therapeutics will continue at a rapid pace over the coming decades and medical oncology will therefore remain an exciting and dynamic specialty.
Additionally, the recently instituted NHS Acute Oncology programme will provide many future career opportunities within the hospital setting. Overall, this is a great time to consider medical oncology as a career.
Find out more about medical oncology and the services delivered by the specialty on Medical Care – the RCP’s online guide to service design.
General / application queries
For general queries relating to areas such as eligibility criteria, making an application or the Oriel system, please contact the Physician Specialty Recruitment Office via email at ST3medrecruitment@hee.nhs.uk.
Queries regarding the progress of a submitted application should be directed to the lead recruiter for this specialty. The lead recruiter for medical oncology in 2020 is London and KSS (LaKSS) Recruitment:
|London and KSS (LaKSS) Recruitment|
|ST3/general queries||General enquiries - Enquiry Form|
|Fitness to practise/Disability/GIS queries - confidential||https://lasepgmdesupport.hee.nhs.uk/support/home|
This specialty uses the standard ST3 eligibility criteria, and does not accept candidates from any alternative training routes.
Please visit the am I eligible? section of this website for further information.
National single centre model
This specialty uses the single centre recruitment model.
You will not be required to give any preferences of particular regions when completing your application; you are applying purely for the specialty at that stage.
Later on, you will be required to give preferences of the available posts – at that point, you can opt to be considered for as many (or as few) post vacancies available nationally as you wish.
Lead region and single centre interviews
The specialty will nominate a particular region to act as lead for the round; this region is shown under the 'Who do I contact?' tab above. This lead region will review all applications, liaise with all candidates, host interviews, verify assessments, and make offers on behalf of all regions nationally.
Your application will be handled solely by the lead region throughout the entire round, up to the point where you receive and accept an offer; after which it will be transferred to the region where the post is based for pre-employment checks.
All interviews will be held at this lead region although the clinicians making up the interview panel will be drawn from a national background – ie not just from the host region.
It is possible that there could be changes between now and the interview period. Please bear this in mind when reviewing the information below, although in most cases it is not expected this will change, or any changes will be minimal. You are advised to check back in closer to the time of interview. The date at the foot of this page shows when the page was last reviewed.
You will spend approximately 10 minutes at each of the three interview stations, with three-to-five minutes' transfer time between each. Thus the overall time for the interview will be approximately 40-45 minutes.
For details of how scores are awarded at interview, and weighting that is applied subsequently, please see the scoring page of this website.
Implicit in all six areas assessed across the three stations will be an assessment your communication skills - eg of how you would communicate with patients, colleagues, etc. in a given scenario, as well as your communication with interviewers at each station.
Click on the relevant stations below for more information on the content of the interview.
Please note that this is subject to change, and will be confirmed by the date of interview.
This is where your application form and training to date will be reviewed. This will include checking the documentation you have brought along to ensure all content on your application form is correct.
Normally your evidence folder will have been reviewed by the interviewers immediately prior to your arrival in the station. They will be:
• Checking that your achievements in your evidence folder match that claimed on your application form.
• Considering your career progression to date.
• Identifying areas about which they may wish to question you during the interview.
Areas for assessment
The two main aspects of discussion here, on which you will be assessed, will be your suitability for and commitment to ST3 training in the specialty, and your achievements and engagement with training and learning to date.
Scoring at the station
It is important to recognise that the scores awarded to you at this station will not purely be about your achievements, as this already contributes towards the scoring via your application form. Interviewers will be deciding upon scores via a combination of factors, for example: your responses to the questions asked, the breadth and quality of your achievements and your career progression.
Station 2 will involve discussion of two clinical scenarios. Implicit in this station will be an assessment of your communication skills - eg of how you would communicate with patients, colleagues, etc. in the given scenarios, as well as your communication with interviewers.
Prior to arriving at station 2 you will be given three minutes to review the first clinical scenario. Upon arrival at the station you will be asked questions relating to this scenario.
You will be stopped after five minutes and be given the second clinical scenario to review, and will be asked questions relating to this scenario.
Each scenario will describe a hypothetical clinical situation which has arisen in which you are, or have become, involved. Areas to consider when reviewing the scenarios are:
what steps you would take
any potential treatments possible
any further information you would gather
how you would go about communicating with any people (eg patients, family members, colleagues) involved in the scenario.
You should also take into account any other factors you deem appropriate, using your experience and professional judgement.
Areas for assessment
Marks here will be awarded to you based on your suggestions and responses to the clinical scenarios - one for each. Each scenario is independently scored, so performance in one will not affect the scoring of the other.
This station will feature discussion of research and academic medicine, followed by discussion of a question on the subject of professionalism & governance.
Research/academic medicine discussion
The first area for which you will be assessed at station 3 will be a general discussion on the subject of research and academic medicine .
No specific preparation will be required of you here, and you will not receive data in advance as you did with the clinical scenario.
However, we would advise undertaking some general preparation. For example, familiarising yourself with the process by which medical research takes place and progresses, from initial setup to report; as well as any areas of research that interest you, and the challenges, benefits, costs, etc. of research more broadly.
Professionalism & governance
Following the research/academic medicine discussion will be a further discussion on the subject of professionalism & governance. This discussion will be prompted by a short question (often a single sentence) provided by interviewers. This will not be given to you before arriving at the station - this will be given verbally by interviewers once the academic/research discussion is finished.
This section of the interview is designed to assess your demonstration and understanding of professionalism and governance considerations in a given situation.
Familiarise yourself with Good Medical Practice
Please note - this discussion will be underpinned by the principles of GMC Good Medical Practice.
Areas for assessment
The first area for which you will receive a score at station 3 will be your demonstration of your knowledge, awareness and understanding of medical research and academic medicine. The second will be your understanding and application of the principles of professionalism & governance.
Appointable - automatic
If you are awarded a score of at least 3/5, for all marks given to you at your interview, then you will automatically be classed as appointable.
Not appointable - automatic
If any of the 12 scores awarded to you at interview are 1/5, this will reflect poor performance and an area of major concern.
If three or more of your 12 interview scores are of 2/5, this will reflect several areas of concern across your whole interview.
Should your interview assessment falls under either category above, the level of concern over your potential progression to ST3 will see your application classed automatically as not appointable .
Appointability subject to panel decision
In the event that your 12 interview scores contain one or two marks of 2/5 (and the rest 3/5 or above), your appointability status will be subject to discussion in the post-interview 'wash-up' meeting.
The clinicians who have interviewed you will discuss your general performance during the interview and any concerns or otherwise they have about your application as a whole.
Should they deem it appropriate, your application will be classed as appointable, and you can then be considered for post offers; whereas if they feel their concerns are too substantial for this outcome, they must class your application as not appointable, and it will progress no further in the current recruitment round.
Review vs automatic status
Please note there is no distinction made between candidates judged as appointable automatically, and those classed as appointable on review. Once deemed appointable it is only your overall score which will be used to determine ranking.
Total score calculation
After interview, a weighting is applied to the scores in each area, and a score derived from your application form is then added to give your total score. This score determines your ranking which is used to inform how offers are made. The weighting of different sections, as well as the method by which your total score is established, can be seen by clicking on 'Total score calculation' below.
Please note that this is subject to change, and will be confirmed by the date of interview.
Application score calculation
The initial application score is used to shortlist applications. At interview this specialty reviews achievements from the application form against the re-scoring matrix in the document below to calculate the score which will contribute to the total score.
Whilst some achievements do not directly contribute to the re-scoring matrix, they will form part of the interviewers’ assessment in station 1 when awarding their score. In particular, quality improvement and teaching normally form a major part of the questioning in this station and as such are likely to significantly influence interviewers’ scoring; which will affect both the total score and determination of appointability. Thus these two domains should not be overlooked or considered any less important in any application.
|Int. 1||Int. 2||Weighting||Max score|
|Evidence||/ 5||/ 5||x0.8||/ 8|
|Suitability for specialty||/ 5||/ 5||x1.2||/ 12|
|Clinical scenario 1||/ 5||/ 5||x1.6||/ 16|
|Clinical scenario 2||/ 5||/ 5||x1.6||/ 16|
|Research/Academic||/ 5||/ 5||x1.6||/ 16|
|Professionalism and governance||/ 5||/ 5||x1.2||/ 12|
|Raw interview score||/ 60|
|Interview score (including weighting)||/ 80|
|Evidence score - scored at station 1, based on achievements claimed on the application form||/ 20|
|Overall assessment score||/ 100|
Provisional post numbers
Specialty vacancy numbers are available in the table below, broken down by region and divided between substantive national training number (NTN) and locum appointment for training (LAT) posts.
It is the intention that initial post numbers for all regions will be published prior to the application opening date, although this cannot be guaranteed. Numbers will be updated as and when notifications are received from each region and will be checked later in the round when programme preferences are open for selection.
Numbers subject to change
Please be aware that it is not uncommon for vacancy numbers to change throughout the round.
More commonly, post vacancy numbers can increase as the round goes on (and confirmation of posts becomes available); but it is also possible that numbers can reduce as well. On average post numbers rise between 20-40% from the start to the finish of the round but this can vary greatly for individual specialty/region combinations.
It is possible that regions which do not have a post at the start of the round may declare one after applications have closed. Whilst we try and minimise instances of this, it is not always possible to predict vacancies so even if there appears not to be a vacancy in your preferred specialty/region combination, you may wish to consider applying in case one becomes available during the round; you can check with the region concerned if you wish to check on the likelihood of a post arising.
Generally, once a region enter a post into a round they would always have at least one post available and would only withdraw it in exceptional circumstances.
Round 1 Interview dates & posts
|Region||NTN posts||LAT posts*||Interview date(s)|
|East of England||0-1||N/A|
London and KSS
|Yorkshire & Humber||
As part of the process of applying to ST3, you may wish to gain an idea of how recruitment progressed in previous years for the various specialties participating in the nationally-coordinated recruitment.
To this end, we have published data dating back to 2013 (where this is available), based around four main areas:
Competition ratios - application numbers submitted to each specialty, along with the number of NTN and LAT posts available in each. It is worth noting that posts are subject to change throughout the round (increasing on average between 20-40%), and post numbers for this data are taken at the end of the round.
Shortlist scores - the scores awarded to all submitted applications, including average scores and distribution nationally.
Total scores - the total score awarded to all candidates who completed the full recruitment process for a specialty (application and interview), including some analysis of scores.
Post fill rates - the number of posts filled by region.
We have published information for all specialties participating in our process that year; consequently not all specialties will have data in all cases.
|Year||Apps.|| NTN |
| LAT |
| Total |
*the percentage of unique candidates that only applied to this specialty (out of the PSRO-coordinated specialties).
**Since 2017 not included candidates that also applied to clinical oncology as the data was not available; it is likely that had this been available the percentage would have been similar to 2015/2016.
|Year||Apps.||NTN posts||LAT posts||Total posts||Comp.|
|2018||Did not participate in round 2|
|2017||Did not participate in round 2|