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Job Photographs

  • A woman sits at a desk, making notes in a diary.  Other paper documents and books lie open on the desk.

    Keeping the doctor's diary up to date.

  • A woman sits at a desk, talking to another woman who is sitting at her side holding a notebook and pen.

    Taking instructions from a doctor.

  • A woman stands at a desk behind a glass screen.  She is using a telephone and looking at a computer screen.

    Speaking to a patient on the phone.

  • A woman sits at a desk, typing on a computer keyboard.  On the wall behind the computer screen is a noticeboard full of information.

    Typing a confidential letter about a patient.

  • A woman sits at a desk, typing on a computer keyboard.  A telephone and printer are also on the desk.  On the wall behind the computer screen is a noticeboard full of information.

    Preparing a medical report.

  • Two women sit on either side of a desk, talking.  One is wearing a nurse's uniform; the other is writing into a notepad as they talk.

    Taking notes in discussion with the clinic nurse.

  • A woman is placing a document into a blue tray which is just one of a whole series of different coloured stacked trays.

    Organising letters and patient notes.

  • A woman is removing a paper file from a series of floor-to-ceiling shelves.  They are full of paper records, separated by various coloured dividers.

    Finding medical records.

  • Medical Secretary

Medical Secretary

Introduction

Medical secretaries provide secretarial support for doctors and other professionals in the health service. Their duties include word processing medical notes and letters, filing and retrieving patients' records, making appointments, managing clinic lists, reception work and answering telephone enquiries. They might also have to calm and reassure anxious patients or their relatives.

Also known as

  • Secretary, Medical
  • Medical Personal Assistant

Video: - Sara: Medical Secretary

Work Activities

As a Medical Secretary, you will provide administrative support for one or more Doctors and other people employed in the health sector.

You are responsible for organising the office, arranging efficient filing systems, retrieving medical reports and dealing with correspondence. You use a computer to type confidential letters and medical notes and to update patients' records in a patient management system. Secretaries sometimes prepare presentations for conferences and type reports for specialist journals.

In hospitals, you might be working in one department, dealing with just one type of medical condition, or in a centralised office covering a number of departments. In a general practitioners' surgery or health clinic, you might be dealing with correspondence and records covering many different types of medical condition.

You will type from recorded speech (audio transcription) or from written notes. You might sometimes take notes in meetings and use these to produce minutes (a record of what was discussed and agreed). In some hospitals, you might accompany Consultants on their ward rounds and take notes.

You are often involved in reception duties, dealing with incoming calls, making appointments and arranging transport for patients. You might also be responsible for maintaining a Doctor's diary and clinic list. In some cases, you might have to reassure anxious patients and their relatives, either face to face or on the telephone.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become a Medical Secretary, you'll need to have:

  • word-processing and audio transcribing skills
  • a good grasp of the English language
  • strong organisation skills
  • the ability to plan and prioritise your workload and manage your time well; you will need to be efficient and accurate
  • a very methodical approach to your work
  • strong communication and interpersonal skills, to deal with patients and their relatives, as well as a wide variety of medical staff
  • teamworking skills
  • a good telephone manner and a polite, tactful, reassuring and helpful approach
  • the ability to deal with personal, confidential and sensitive information
  • a respect for data protection and medical ethics (rules of conduct)
  • general IT skills such as email, databases, spreadsheets and presentation software
  • the ability to use your initiative, think quickly and stay calm under pressure
  • an interest in human biology

For some posts, you might need a minimum typing speed of 50-65 words per minute (wpm), for example. For some posts, you might need shorthand skills.

You will need the ability to learn a lot of medical terminology.

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

The pay rates given below are approximate. NHS careers are paid on a scale according to the Agenda for Change.

  • Starting - Band 3: £18,813 - £20,795
  • With experience - Band 4: £21,089 - £23,761
  • Senior Medical Secretaries - Band 5: £24,214 - £30,112

Hours of work

Most Medical Secretaries work 37.5 hours, Monday to Friday. Full-time, part-time, temporary and flexible working arrangements might be available.

Where could I work?

Employers include the NHS (in general practice and hospitals), the private health sector, research associations, drug companies, pathology laboratories and medical schools.

Temporary work, whether on a casual basis or through short-term contracts, might be available from private medical secretarial employment agencies and from health authorities' work 'bank' agencies.

Opportunities for Medical Secretaries occur in towns and cities throughout the UK.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised on the NHS Jobs website, on job boards, in local/national newspapers, on Find a Job, and at Jobcentre Plus.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

Many entrants have completed a college course leading to a recognised medical secretarial qualification. Some employers might prefer applicants to have these qualifications. Others might ask for GCSEs at grade C/4 or above including English and a recognised text-processing qualification such as OCR level 3.

An Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship is also a great place to start. Take a look at our information article 'Apprenticeships – How do I apply', for more details about applying for apprenticeship positions.

Training

City & Guilds (AMSPAR) offers relevant level 3 qualifications including the certificate in medical administration and medical administrative support. AMSPAR is the Association of Medical Secretaries, Practice Managers, Administrators and Receptionists.

Study programmes are available on a full- or part-time basis; on average, they last between 12 and 24 months. City & Guilds provides a full list of approved colleges and centres providing these qualifications.

The British Society of Medical Secretaries and Administrators (BSMSA) offers the following home study courses:

  • BSMSA medical terminology for beginners
  • BSMSA certificate in medical terminology
  • BSMSA correspondence course for medical secretaries and administrators
  • City & Guilds certificate in medical administration level 3

Progression

Medical Secretaries in general practice could become Practice Managers, after further training and experience. In a hospital, you can go on to manage secretarial services or follow the routes into other areas of administration or management.

Work Experience

Previous experience working as a Receptionist or in an admin position would be really useful for this career.

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

Working in health services as a Medical Secretary with access to people receiving health care is an exception to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to. This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.

Qualifications

To get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, possibly including English and maths.

Other employers might ask for 5 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above including English and a recognised word-processing qualification such as OCR level 3. Some people enter with A levels or equivalent qualifications.

A relevant work-related qualification in a business subject, such as a BTEC level 2 qualification or a BTEC level 3 qualification, might be accepted for entry.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Entry

Some health authorities and colleges consider applications from candidates who do not meet their usual entry requirements, if they have relevant secretarial skills. You should check individual admissions policies.

Advanced Level Apprenticeships in Business and Administration might be available in your area.

Courses

A number of centres offer relevant part-time courses, including the City & Guilds/Association of Medical Secretaries, Practice Managers, Administrators and Receptionists (AMSPAR) certificate and diploma courses.

Distance learning

AMSPAR offers the Certificate in Medical Terminology at levels 2 and 3 by distance learning.

The British Society of Medical Secretaries and Administrators (BSMSA) offers several relevant home study courses.

Statistics

  • 51% of people in occupations such as medical secretary work part-time.
  • 26% have flexible hours.
  • 2% of employees work on a temporary basis.

Further Information

Professional institutionsProfessional institutions have the following roles:

  • To support their members.
  • To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.

For more information on the institution(s) relevant to this career, check out the contacts below.

Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far

National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)

Tel: 0800 015 0400

Email: nationalhelpdesk@findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk

Website: www.apprenticeships.org.uk

Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 9178000

Email: info@skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk

Website: www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships

City & Guilds

Address: 1 Giltspur Street, London EC1A 9DD

Tel: 020 7294 2468

Email: learnersupport@cityandguilds.com

Website: www.cityandguilds.com

Skills for Health

Skills for the health sector

Address: Goldsmiths House, Broad Plain, Bristol BS2 0JP

Tel: 0117 9221155

Email: office@skillsforhealth.org.uk

Website: www.skillsforhealth.org.uk

NHS Education for Scotland (NES)

Scottish enquiries

Address: Westport 102, West Port, Edinburgh EH3 9DN

Tel: 0131 6563200

Email: enquiries@nes.scot.nhs.uk

Website: www.nes.scot.nhs.uk

Association of Medical Secretaries, Practice Managers, Administrators and Receptionists (AMSPAR)

Tel: 020 7387 6005

Email: info@amspar.com

Website: www.amspar.com

British Society of Medical Secretaries and Administrators (BSMSA)

Address: 132 Mayfield Road, Edinburgh EH9 3AH

Tel: 0131 4660682

Email: training@bsmsa.org.uk

Website: www.bsmsa.org.uk

Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844

Website: ams.careerswales.com/

People Exchange Cymru (PEC)

Public sector recruitment portal for Wales

Email: peopleexchangecymru@gov.wales

Website: www.peopleexchangecymru.org.uk/home

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