Haematology (doctor)

Haematologists diagnose and treat patients with blood and bone marrow disorders. 

Haematology is an intensive but exciting specialty with both clinical and laboratory practice. It’s a field that is rapidly changing, with great research successes seen in front-line medicine.

Life as a haematologist

You’ll have a dual role as a haematologist and take an active part in every stage of a patient’s care - from their initial clinic visit, to diagnosis through laboratory assessment, and treatment and follow-up. The holistic nature of your role will be a highlight of your work, and you will build relationships with patients of all ages and from diverse backgrounds with a range of haematology presentations and conditions.  

During your training you will be expected to do some paediatric haematology. You can then continue your career focused on young teenage adults, or specialise in conditions usually only seen in the elderly.
 
Your work will also be varied through a balance of inpatient and outpatient work and practical aspects including several procedures.
 
You will see patients with malignant conditions such as leukaemias, myelomas and lymphomas as well as patients with anaemia, haemophilia or clotting disorders. You’ll provide clinical support for the haematology diagnostic laboratory, as well as the blood bank through transfusion medicine. 
 
Depending where you work, you may care for patients having bone marrow or blood transfusions for specific conditions. 

Typically, your role will include:

  • delivering clinical care, often for life-threatening disease
  • formulating chemotherapy protocols and managing their delivery
  • managing haematopoietic stem cell transplantation procedures
  • providing advice on haematology laboratory results
  • sampling the bone marrow through biopsies and interpreting the morphology under a microscope
  • performing lumbar punctures and giving intra-thecal chemotherapy  
  • potential research commitments

Importantly, you’ll be part of a multi-disciplinary team that provides care to patients with haematological conditions. The rest of the team will includes clinical nurse specialists, pharmacists, research nurses, dieticians, and biomedical, and clinical scientists. 

You will also provide an advisory and consultancy service to GPs and other hospital specialists, including surgeons and intensive care and emergency doctors. This liaison work, along with assistance in the clinical interpretation of laboratory data, can be very satisfying.

How much can I earn?

You will first earn a salary when you start your foundation training after medical school. The basic salary ranges from £29,384 to £34,012. Once you start your specialty training as a haematologist employed by the NHS, you can expect to earn a salary of at least £40,257, which can increase to between £84,559 and £114,003 as a consultant.

How about the benefits?

  • make a difference 
  • flexible and part-time working 
  • high income early in your career   
  • work anywhere in the world   
  • excellent pension scheme 
  • good holiday entitlement 
  • NHS discounts in shops and restaurants

Must-have skills

  • excellent communication skills to manage a wide range of relationships with colleagues, patients, and their families 
  • emotional resilience, a calm temperament, and the ability to work well under pressure 
  • teamwork and the capacity to lead multidisciplinary teams 
  • problem-solving and diagnostic skills 
  • outstanding organisational ability and effective decision-making skills 
  • first-class time and resource management for the benefit of patients 

Entry requirements

Your first step is medical school. Typically, you’ll need excellent GCSEs and three A or A* passes at A level including chemistry for a five-year undergraduate degree in medicine. Many medical schools also ask for biology and others may require maths or physics.  

If you already have a degree, you could study for a four-year postgraduate degree in medicine. 
 
You will need to pass an interview and admissions test. You will be asked to show how you demonstrate the NHS values such as compassion and respect. 
 
Some medical schools look to recruit a mix of students from diverse backgrounds and geographical areas, so your educational and economic background and family circumstances could be considered as part of your application.

"I love my job. It’s really interesting as it’s a dual role. We not only provide clinical care but are also involved in diagnosis. We’re part of the whole patient journey from admission, diagnosis, treatment and holistic care of the patient."

Read Thinzar's story

What are my chances of starting a career as a haematologist?

There are approximately 917 haematologists working in the NHS in England. In 2020, there were 195 applications for 73 specialty training places. 

How to become a haematologist

After medical school, you’ll join the paid two-year foundation programme where you’ll work in six placements in different settings.  
 
After your foundation programme, you can apply for internal medicine training. After two years you can apply for specialty training to become a haematologist, which will take a minimum of five years.  
 
You may be able to train part time, for example for health reasons or if you have family or caring responsibilities.

Where a career as a haematologist can take you

You will have the opportunity to develop special interests in a wide variety of clinical and laboratory areas. Most haematologists have competences in one or more sub-specialties within the discipline, including:

  • haemato-oncology (acute and chronic leukaemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma)
  • haemostasis/thrombosis (congenital and acquired disorders of haemostasis and blood coagulation and management of antithrombotic therapies)
  • disorders of blood production and destruction (including bone marrow failure, anaemias, and autoimmune blood diseases)
  • transfusion medicine
  • paediatric haematology

You’ll also have the chance to teach medical students and trainees and many haematologists also undertake research.

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