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Academic Clinical Fellows (ACF)

NIHR ACF posts are usually available each year in the Unit of Academic Primary Care (UAPC). They are awarded in conjunction with the West Midlands Deanery GP vocational training scheme.

ACF Programme in General Practice (GP)

Our ACFs are two-year specialty training posts, and recruitment is normally at ST3. In the future we hope to also have some 4 year programmes available with entry at ST1. The UAPC works alongside the VTS programme to prepare ACF doctors to pass the MRCGP examination and gain the relevant skills to become confident general practitioners, while also gaining essential research and teaching skills that provide a foundation for academic general practice.

Professor Jeremy Dale is head of the UAPC, and Professor Paramjit Gill is the GP ACF lead.

Clinical Training

The Coventry and Warwickshire VTS is a friendly, supportive scheme with 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 Coventry and Warwickshire region and join practices that are active in teaching and research.

Academic Environment

The Unit of Academic Primary Care provides an outstanding environment for the development of trainee GPs who are wishing to embark on an academic clinical career. It has an international reputation for developing innovative methods of research synthesis, primary care interventions and health services research to ensure that research findings change clinical practice.

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, research into access for primary care including digital health care, cardiovascular conditions, diabetes and metabolic conditions, patient experiences and research methods. The list is not exhaustive and the team are happy to support developing ACFs to nurture their own research ideas and areas of interest.

ACFs doctors at ST3 entry spend 50% of their time in research and educational training during ST3 and ST4, and is organised as follows:

  • Years 1 and 2 are mainly hospital based, with 6 months spent in general practice in ST2. We encourage trainees that are considering applying for an ACF role to approach the UAPC during the early stages of training so that they might become involved in the unit, strengthen their CV and get a better understanding of what an academic general practice role looks like.
  • Years 3 and 4 are split between clinical general practice (50%) and academic training (50%). 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.

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.

ACFs are encouraged to attend courses and conferences, draft papers for publication and to apply for research funding. For those that have not yet gained a PhD, they will be encouraged to work towards a Masters qualification and an application for a doctoral training fellowship.

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.

Current ACFs in the Unit of Academic Primary Care

The Unit of Academic Primary Care currently includes two Academic Clinical Fellows (ACFs) and they are highly valued members of our research team. Here's what they have to say about themselves and what it means to them to be based here as ACFs.

Dr Sarah Hillman


"I am an ACF in Primary Care and a trainee on the Coventry and Warwickshire GP VTS programme. I started my career as an Obstetrics and Gynaecology trainee and gained research skills as an ACF (at the University of Warwick) and then Clinical Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham gaining my PhD in 2014. I am now pursuing a career as an Academic GP after changing training schemes in 2015.

"My current research interests lie in the areas of Women’s health and Genetics in Primary Care. Warwick has supported and developed my academic interests and I have recently been successful, with Professor Dale’s and the Unit of Primary care at Warwick’s support, in securing a small grant from the RCGP to research the management of PCOS in Primary Care. Since I have started as an ACF in the Unit I have published in the BJGP, InnovAit and BMJ careers.

"The Primary Care Unit at Warwick is successful and expanding. They are extremely approachable and very supportive of early career academics. If you are interested in an academic career I strongly recommend you get in touch!" s dot hillman at warwick dot ac dot uk

Dr Mishkat Shehata


"I will be based here at the Unit of Academic Primary Care for two years undertaking primary care research with an interest in non-communicable disease prevention. I am developing my portfolio GP career with special interest in Lifestyle Medicine.

"Being an academic at the Unit gives me the opportunity to undertake research on lifestyle interventions in the context of new models of care and service delivery such as telemedicine. In addition to this, it helps me identify and develop innovative solutions to deliver these interventions. The presence of researchers active in this area of interest as well as others pertaining to service delivery, such as digital health, at the Unit allows for exciting collaborative work during my tenure here." Mishkat dot Shehata at warwick dot ac dot uk