Health Education South West (HESW) provides a number of Global Health Fellowships for GP Speciality Trainees. These posts include us facilitating, through our partner Africa Health Placements (AHP) one year out of programme clinical posts, based in rural community hospitals in South Africa.

Applications for Global Health Fellowships will be made at the same time as the application to GP Training in HESW through the National Recruitment process (an additional application form will be made available for this.) Competitive interviews will then be held to decide who can be offered a Global Health Fellowship. HESW anticipates offering 25 Global Health Fellowships to Trainees commencing GP Specialty Training in August 2016.

Successful applicants for Global Health Fellowships will undertake a year in South Africa within the context of time out of programme (OOPE) ad described in the Health Education South West guidelines. The OOPE posts in South Africa will be undertaken at the end of ST2 and Trainees will then return to complete their pre-arranged ST3.

Global health Fellows are expected to make a firm commitment to the programme, including the year in South Africa, and must demonstrate satisfactory progress in their training during ST1 and ST2 in order to qualify for the OOPE year.

Africa Health Placements works with the Department of Health and other stakeholders to implement pragmatic solutions to help plan for, find and keep the workforce needed to ensure all South Africans have access to quality healthcare. Working in a rural hospital in South Africa gives you the opportunity to contribute towards improving the medical care provided to impoverished and underserved communities in the country.

Cultural Orientation

About South Africa

South Africa is located at the southern tip of Africa. It has a diverse landscape and almost 2 800 kilometres of coastline that stretches along the South Atlantic and Indian oceans.

South Africa has nine provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West and Western Cape. The country has 11 official languages. Zulu is the most frequently spoken language in South African households, followed by Xhosa. English is widely used as the language of business.

Fast Facts

  • Population: 52.9 million
  • Land area: 1 219 602 km2
  • Currency: Rand currency converter
  • Time zone: GMT + 2
  • International dialling code: +27
  • Internet domain: .za
  • Electricity: 220/240 volts AC, 50Hz. Round three pinned plugs (a specific adaptor is required)

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)

To practise in any of the health professions you need to register with the HPCSA in terms of the Health Professional Act of 1974. Failure to do so constitutes a criminal offence. You can visit the HPCSA’s website for more information.

Africa Health Placements will guide you through the registration process and can also advise you about eligibility of your training. In general, if you have trained in the UK, your primary medical qualification will be accepted by the HPSCA but eligibility is variable for doctors who have trained in other countries.

Learning to Communicate Like a Local

English is only the fifth most spoken home language, and not widely spoken in rural areas. Familiarising yourself with the language most spoken in the area in which you will be working prior to arrival will prove beneficial and go a long way when interacting with your patients.

Here is a guideline of which language is spoken in which area:

  • Mpumalanga and Limpopo: Northern Sotho
  • Free State, Lesotho, southern Gauteng, and northern Eastern Cape:
  • Southern Sotho
  • Northern Cape and North West: Tswana
  • Western Cape and Eastern Cape: Xhosa
  • KwaZulu-Natal, eastern Free State, eastern Gauteng, and southern and
  • western Mpumalanga: Zulu

Take advantage of the following free language course: The University of South Africa 

There is an application available for downloading on your smart phone to assist in translation.


Personal Medical Insurance

As a state employee, you will qualify for the Government Employees Medical Scheme but most of our Trainees working in South Africa will choose to take out personal medical insurance, which will provide access to a higher level of care.

Medical Indemnity Insurance

Please look into Medical Indemnity Insurance, the cover you have for your GP Training will not cover you overseas. Some defence organisations will provide you with indemnity insurance at a reasonable price for your time away and it is strongly recommended that you avail yourself of suitable cover; whilst the risk of litigation is low it is wise to be covered.


All trainees are met by an AHP Representative on arrival at the airport.

Getting to your Hospital

Upon your arrival, the hospital may be able to send a representative to collect you. If this is not possible, you will need to rent a car or book a shuttle service. Please consult AHP for more information on your transport options.

Car rental companies include:

  • Avis
  • Europcar
  • Tempest

Airlines that operate in South Africa:

  • South African Airways
  • British Airways
  • Kulula
  • Mango

Buses and trains are also generally safe for long-haul travel. The majority of South Africans commute using taxis (13-seat minibuses). Should you want to make use of a taxi service, it is advisable that you do so with someone who is familiar with the routes and fares.

Transport for the Duration of your Stay

We highly recommend purchasing a motor vehicle or renting one on a long term basis. Public transport, especially in rural areas, can be quite limited. While roads in urban areas are tarred, there are many dirt roads in rural areas and driving conditions may be especially difficult after heavy rains. You may require a 4x4 vehicle in some areas but take local advice as this is not usually necessary. Many doctors share care ownership whilst they are away. 

Ask your Clinical Manager or local doctors if this is necessary. Please note that as a foreign national, you will be required to pay for car rental and purchase upfront.


Some hospitals have accommodation on the premises, which is usually partly furnished. A fee – which on average is a minimum of R800 per month – may be required. Other hospitals, usually those in larger towns, will not have staff accommodation and you will be required to secure your own accommodation as well as transport to and from the hospital. There are hospitals that may offer to pay for your stay at a bed-and-breakfast or guesthouse for at least one month while you finalise your accommodation. Please discuss the available options directly with your hospital.

Ongoing Support

Once you have started working, you will automatically receive on-going support.

AHP provides the following:

  • Regular contact from the orientation team
  • Invites to all CPD sessions and doctors’ socials hosted by AHP
  • In certain districts, AHP has a Retention Officer. If you are in one of these districts, you may meet the AHP representative from time to time
  • Exit process if you choose to leave the country

We trust that you will feel well-supported. We are a phone call or email away to address any issues or concerns that may arise during your stay in South Africa.

Top Experiences

South Africa is a beautiful country brimming with promise. Our expectation is that you will have many wonderful experiences while you are here. Doctors have cited the following as some of their most valuable experiences:

Medical Experiences

  • Experience with HIV/AIDS and related pathologies
  • Diverse and complementary medical skills such as trauma,
  • Surgery and paediatrics
  • Rewarding nature of the work as patients are very grateful to receive
  • Quality medical care

Lifestyle Experiences

  • Travel and outdoor adventures (hiking, safaris and sports)
  • Cultural diversity of the country
  • Learning to adapt to the demands of a foreign environment

Ways to Fill Your Free Time

  • Surf South Africa and ride the waves of the warm Indian Ocean
  • Wander the Wild Coast and see the majestic hole in the natural rock formation
  • Go on safari and see the Big Five
  • Canoe, raft or kayak down the Orange River or the Blyde River where you can also swim in the large pools and explore the third largest canyon in the world
  • Tour the Garden Route where you can take in some whale watching, shark cage diving (with great white sharks) and even ride an ostrich before taking a walk through the lush Knysna Forest
  • Hike the Drakensburg and enjoy the glorious landscapes
  • Try out the highest bungee jump in the world at Bloukrans
  • Explore the origins of mankind at the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO world heritage site
  • Visit Robben Island, where former president Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, and Table Mountain in Cape Town
  • Experience township flair in Soweto and walk on the only street to have housed two Nobel laureates

Hospital Information (A Small Selection)

Trainees are put in touch with a local contact at the designated hospital to find about more about the hospital and area. The information below is to give you an idea of what the hospitals cover.

Mseleni Hospital

It is a 184-bed hospital, which is split into 6 wards (labour, female surgical, paediatrics, male, female medical and isolation wards). There is also a therapy department, a radiography department with x-ray and ultrasound machines, a pharmacy and a laboratory, as well as a dentist and social workers. The hospital runs 8 clinics in a catchment area of 100 x 30km. The Outpatients department (OPD) serves as a doctor's waiting room during the day and also a 24-hour emergency department. Most of the time there are between 5 and 8 doctors employed by the hospital. This number includes community service doctors.

Mosvold Hospital

The hospital sees 96,000 outpatients per year and admits 9,000, with an average stay of 6 days. There are six wards in the hospital; Male, Female, Paediatric, Maternity, Isolation and Tuberculosis. The HIV/AIDS department mainly run by nurses and counsellors. Mosvold Hospital serves as a referral hospital for 10 PHC clinics. There are 3 mobile teams that cover 41 points. Mosvold Hospital is within the boundaries of Jozini dam, Pongola river and Lebombo mountains.

Bethesda Hospital

The work includes both primary and secondary level medical care and we serve a population of about 100 000 people in an area of about 1500 square kilometres. There are 8 residential clinics and two mobile clinic teams that visit 20 points every 2-week cycle. The medical staff use an aeroplane or 4x4 vehicles to visit residential clinics weekly. We also fly dire emergencies to the referral centres. TB and other infectious diseases are prolific, as are malnutrition, HIV related disease and malaria.

Estcourt Hospital

The hospital has 325 beds in 7 wards. There are also10 clinics under this hospital. Estcourt Hospital also has a referral system; patients are referred to Ladysmith Provincial Hospital, Grey’s Hospital, Edendale Hospital, Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital etc. Each day one Medical Officer (MO) is assigned to visiting a clinic so that each clinic is visited twice monthly by an MO. Clinics book their stable referral patients for the Medical Officers visit. Non-stable and emergency patients are referred directly to the hospital. This vital outreach service is provided to improve patient care, access to health care and to reduce the patient’s travelling cost.

Provinces in South Africa where AHP place Trainees

Six Step Placement Process

  • Verification of credentials with a US based organisation, the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) – 4 months to complete
  • Application for endorsement to seek work in South African public sector from the National Health Departments Foreign Workforce Management (FWM) programme – 5 weeks to complete
  • Allocation to recruiter for facility placement – 4 months to complete
  • Application to FWM programme for final endorsement to register and work in the hospital of candidates choosing – 5 weeks to complete
  • Application to Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) for approval of registration license to practise clinically in South Africa – 8 weeks to complete (from the time of the HPCSA board meeting. Meetings to approve registration are only held 3 times a year)
  • Visa application - 32 days to complete


Useful Competences for Deployment to South Africa 

The following competencies are useful to know, if you get the opportunity prior to deployment but it is unlikely you will be fully competent in any of these skills prior to departure, you will acquire most of these clinical skills and become fully competent within a few weeks of starting work.  Basically ….. you learn on the job!


  • Basic Surgical Skills
  • Obstetric Emergency Skills
  • Caesarean Sections
  • Spinal Anaesthesia for Caesarean Sections
  • CPAP for neonates
  • HIV Medicine
  • TB Medicine
  • Reduction of Fractures
  • Insertion of Chest Drains
  • Central Line Insertion
  • Lumbar Puncture
  • Wound Debridement
  • Ascites Drains
  • Pleural Taps
  • Plastering Fractures
  • Ring Blocks
  • Femoral Nerve Block
  • Supra Pubic Catheter Insertions
  • Intraosseous Access
  • Basic Safe Sedation/use of Ketamine
  • NG Insertion
  • Airway Skills in Adults and Neonates
  • Umbilical Line Insertion
  • Burns Management
  • Adult and Neonatal Resus


  • Who is Africa Health Placements?

They are a social profit organisation partnering with the Department of Health to improve the healthcare services in the regions they operate in. Currently working in South Africa, they recruit healthcare workers for public sector hospitals in underserved areas. They facilitate the process from enquiry to placements and support you in finding the right position for your skills and interests.

  • Where does Africa Health Placements operate?

They cover the whole of South Africa, but focus on rural and underserved areas where there is a critical need for doctors.

  • What kind of skills are they looking for?

They place a wide variety of doctors as there are a lot of positions available.

  • What is the length of contacts?

The best duration for paid roles is between one and three years as this benefits both the hospital and the individual doctor. This period is ideal as it makes it worthwhile for hospitals as they invest a significant amount of time in administration and coaching new health workers, and for the individual doctor as it provides them time to gain the most out of their stay in South Africa. However, should you wish to come for a shorter period. They can place you in voluntary posts for six months or more.

  • What kind of supervision will I have?

This will depend on what you feel you need. Senior clinical staff are available to help and provide support for work that is outside of your previous experience. In addition, your colleagues are usually other expat professionals and junior South African personnel who are doing a community service year. Due to personnel limitations, you may at times be required to work unsupervised and take charge of departments, but hospitals have systems to phone for support and the nurses are also quite experienced.

  • Where will I be located?

That depends on what is available. Your skills and location preferences are taken into account when we look for positions. Rural hospitals can be several hours from urban centres, but most are within driving distance of shopping centres. Most regional referral hospitals are in urban areas. Regional hospitals serve the rural hospitals and clinics as a referral centre when specialist treatment is required.

  • Do I need to learn a local language?

It will be useful to make an effort to learn the basics of the local language. While useful, this is not critical as you will be assisted with translation from the nursing and support staff. This communication procedure will take a bit of effort to become used to, but all official documentation and correspondence are done in English.

  • Where will I stay?

Accommodation is quite often provided in the hospital grounds for a nominal amount of approximately £100 per month. If there isn’t accommodation on hospital grounds, local accommodation can be secured.

  • What kind of work will I be doing?

Unless you are a Consultant Specialist, you will normally be doing generalist work which means you are expected to provide basic care to the emergency department, outpatient and inpatient clinics as well as visiting satellite clinics. Surgical procedures will depend on your experience and skills, but you can learn a lot if you want to expand your skill set and cover a broader spectrum. The services required in the outlying clinics are most closely allied to that of a general practitioner. There is a premium on obstetric skills and you may learn some anaesthetics and tropical disease treatments. You will certainly gain experience in the treatment of HIV/Aids and TB.

  • What type of remuneration can I expect?

For minimum one year paid contracts the entry level salary is approximately £33000 pa. The living costs are lower than in the US and Europe, but you may need to buy or share a car as public transport is very limited.

  • Can I bring my partner/spouse and what about children? What will they do and what job possibilities are there for them?

Yes, you can bring your family and they will be most welcomed. They will need to apply for visas when the work permit is obtained. Many opportunities exist for volunteer work, but paid work is highly dependent on the partner’s skills and the need in a local area. We are not mandated to find paid roles for them but will advise as much as we can and it’s often best to look when you arrive in South Africa. Schooling is of a good standard and often near facilities.

  • Do I need to sit examinations to work in South Africa?

All applications go through the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) Board for approval. The HPCSA Board makes the determination on whether the candidate meets the requirements, or whether they need to sit an exam. If applicants have trained and graduated in a UK Medical School and are registered with the GMC then they will not need to sit an exam. 

  • What are the working hours and responsibilities?

The standard working week is 45 hours and 48 hour on call when necessary. You will normally have a core role and share the overflow work with other staff as per the situation in a flexible system.

  • How long does it take to go through the process?

The process can take between 9 – 12 months. We advise that you apply early and get going with the administration to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity for your career.

  • What do I have to wear to work?

The working environment is comfortable yet professional. You can wear semi-formal clothing. While men do not need to wear ties to work, shorts and revealing attire is inappropriate. Scrubs are provided but you can bring your own. AHP will provide you with a white coat that you can wear on duty.

  • Do I get time off?

All contracts allow for annual leave days which range from 10 to 20 working days. You will have to apply for leave and notify your Clinical Manager at least 6 weeks prior to taking leave (this may differ between hospitals). Some contacts allow for study leave to attend courses. Leave of any kind is dependent on the contract and capacity at the facility.

  • Will I be able to continue with my studies and professional development while in South Africa?

You may continue to communicate with your Educational Supervisor during your time in South Africa by phone, e-mail and Skype. We also encourage trainees to maintain their e-portfolio log diary during their time away in order that you can capture  and reflect upon those experiences that are relevant to your GP training (and this is also another good way of maintaining communication with your Educational Supervisor).

  • Am I expected to participate in any projects/audits? 

                  Yes. We hope that all trainees will engage in some osrt of audit or project that leads to positive and sustainable change to the local workplace. This should be written up and documented within your eportfolio. 

  • What do I need to have completed by the end of ST2? AKT?

There is not a requirement to have completed the AKT but it is advisable. You must have had satisfactory progress outcomes in all of your ARCPs up to the end of ST2.

  • Do I still log onto e-portfolio?

Yes, you may find it helpful to record reflections of your professional experiences in your ePortfolio which will then count towards development of your competencies.  Your Educational supervisor may also wish to comment on these, although formal contact with your ES is not required while you are on OOPE

  • Do I need to maintain my status as an AiT with the RCGP?

                 Yes. You are expected to maintain your Associate in Training status. You are still a trainee and will need to be able to access your ePortfolio while on OOPE.​

  • Does this year count towards revalidation?

Yes. You will need to complete a Form R and arrange to have an OOP Supervisor report completed (forms can be found here). The supervisor will be asked to document details of any significant untoward incidents occurring while on placement. Both these forms should be uploaded to your ePortfolio before your OOP ARCP, which will be held at the end of the year.

  • Do I have a Clinical Supervisor?

Clinical supervision is provided locally in each hospital in South Africa. Education Supervision is maintained within Health Education East of England and can be with your GPST programme allocated Educational Supervisor of with Dr Roger Tisi, OOPE GP Lead Associate Dean

  • Do I need to do any courses before I go?

Presently, it is not compulsory. Some OOPE trainees do undertake courses in tropical medicine at their own expense.

  • Will I meet my fellow trainees who will also be travelling to South Africa before we depart?

Yes. We are planning to run induction meetings for those who will be taking part in the scheme. There will also be an opportunity to meet with representatives from Africa Health Placements and also trainees who have previously been out to South Africa.

  • Can I undertake this opportunity after I have finished training?

Yes, we can also arrange this for you post CCT.

  • Will this affect my tax?

Citizens of the UK are allowed different tax concessions depending on how long they plan on staying out of the country. Please see the Government website for more information.  

  • What are the locations/preferences we can choose from?

Profiles are usually sent out by AHP once they have assessed the location of interests of the Trainee. View the profiles of the hospitals.

  • Can I still take part if my training is out of sync due to having time out e.g. maternity leave?

This would need to be negotiated with your Training Programme Director as placements usually run August – August to fit in with GPST rotations. If the Training Programme Director is happy to release you then this can be arranged.

  • Do I have to go for a full 12 months?

Yes - 12 months is recommended for both you and the hospital to benefit the most from your OOPE. 

  • Do I need to be registered with the GMC while I am away?

Yes, it is recommended you keep up your GMC Registration during your OOPE. Failure to do so could have impacts in regards to your revalidation.

  • Are all trainees met by an AHP Representative on arrival in South Africa?

Yes and you will be given a 4 day induction to include bank details, help if needing a car and 2 days of training/course. You are also given a book bag with books on various medical topics.

  • Is there anything useful I could take with me?

A stethoscope, a SATS prove, pen torch, Dopler (if an interest in Obstetrics), a tape measure and an Ophthalmoscope if you have one are all useful.

  • Do I need a car?

If buying a car it is advisable to buy a car in Johannesburg, preferably a 4 wheel drive. A lot of doctors car share. Possible liaison with Doctors already there re the possibility of buying their car before they come home?

  • Can I use my mobile phone?

Yes, this is used by a lot of the doctors to access the internet also. It is recommended to buy a data bundle to use your phone locally.