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ACF programme in General Practice (GP)

NIHR ACF posts are usually available each year in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences (NDPCHS) each year. They are awarded in conjunction with the Oxford Deanery GP vocational training scheme. 

Our ACFs are four-year specialty training posts, and recruitment is at ST1. From 2019 there can also be entry at ST2 and ST3. The programme prepares ACF doctors to pass the MRCGP examination with credit and gain specialist accreditation. It also supports those who wish to continue in academic general practice to obtain research funding.

Dr Gail Hayward is the GP ACF lead.


The Oxford Deanery GP Directorate is in the vanguard of innovation within UK GP training. It has a very strong record for supporting trainees in taking the MRCGP examination, with many achieving merits and distinctions. The teaching emphasises the skills needed to give the highest quality of clinical care. 

Trainees normally take the MRCGP exam in Year 3. The majority completing the programme continue to work within the Thames Valley region and join practices that are active in teaching and research.


NDPCHS provides an outstanding environment for the development of trainee clinical researchers. It has an international reputation for developing innovative methods of research synthesis and research use to ensure that research findings change clinical practice. It:

There is a wealth of senior research expertise across methodologies and in a number of clinical areas. These include health behaviours, obesity and weight loss, infection and acute care, cardiovascular conditions, diabetes and metabolic conditions, patient experiences, research methods, big data and evidence-based medicine. The department also has a strong cross-cutting stream of clinical research focusing on diagnostic technology and clinical monitoring (the NIHR Oxford Diagnostic Evidence Cooperative).

Post organisation

ACFs doctors spend 25% of their time in research and educational training, organised as follows:

Four-year posts

  • Years 1 and 2 are 12 months hospital-based and 12 months in clinical general practice.
  • Years 3 and 4 are split between clinical general practice (40-50%) and academic training (50 - 60%%). The main academic focus is to undertake research projects leading to publications. ACFs also prepare a submission for a research training fellowship or, if applicable, post-doctoral research funding.

Other posts

ST2 entry, 3-year posts will complete their ST2 hospital training and then follow years 3 and 4 as above. ST3 entry, 2-year posts will follow years 3 and 4 as above.



ACF doctors have an academic supervisor who acts as a mentor during the post. The academic supervisor also facilitates the development of research projects with senior researchers in the department.

Postgraduate Certificate in Health Research

All ACFs have the opportunity to undertake the Postgraduate Certificate in Health Research. It is recommended that at least one of three contributory modules be taken during Years 1 and 2, particularly during the six-month GP attachment (vs. the hospital attachments). For 2 and 3 year ACF posts there will be discussion about the best timings on a personal basis.

Research Overseas

ACFs with an interest in research overseas may have an opportunity to involve themselves in international projects. However, conducting field-work overseas is usually not feasible because of the UK clinical training requirements. So, ACF research projects usually need to be UK based.


Last reviewed: September 2020 

profiles of ACF doctors in general practice

Dr Nicholas Jones


Photo credit: Amanda Mills via the Public Health Image Library (PHIL), cropped