Working life (forensic psychiatry)

This page provides useful information about the roles and responsibilities of forensic psychiatrists, where they work, who they work with and what they feel about their role.

"It’s a great specialty if you want to be intellectually challenged and to work with complex patients with severe psychopathology who have committed serious crimes.” 

“It’s an opportunity to work with a group of patients over a long period of time, with a team of expert mental health professionals.”

“It gives me the opportunity to develop skills over and above my medical skills such as evaluating complex information and writing reports. I find the interface with the law intellectually stimulating.”

 “It’s rewarding to work with patients who are seen as having a poor prognosis and helping them.” 

(Quotations from forensic psychiatrists)

The working week would usually involve a combination of clinical work, clinical governance, teaching and training.

Usual working hours are 9am to 5pm. Consultant forensic psychiatrists normally participate in an on call rota for the forensic service, and trainees may sometimes be part of an out-of-hours rota.

On average, a consultant forensic psychiatrist working in medium security will have clinical responsibility for up to 15 inpatients, but this figure will vary depending on other required commitments as well as the level of security and the demands of the case load. Other clinical commitments will involve assessments in police stations, prisons, courts and other hospitals. Many consultants have a specialist clinical commitment such as regular prison in-reach clinics or community forensic mental health services.

Patients include those with mental illness, personality disorders, intellectual disability, other developmental disorders such as autistic spectrum disorders or ADHD in adults as well as children or adolescents, organic brain damage and other co-morbid conditions such as substance misuse and histories of trauma and abuse.

Forensic psychiatric work is carried out in high, medium and low secure hospital services, in prisons and community settings. Most forensic mental health services operate from well-equipped, purpose-built modern facilities, but work often involves travelling considerable distances for prison assessments.

The EU Working Time Directive limits the working week to 48 hours. It is also possible to work part-time once you are consultant, or to train on a less than full-time basis (conditions apply).

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