Medical Secretary/Personal Assistant

Medical secretaries can work in a GP practice or in a hospital for a consultant. Medical secretaries use their own initiative, make decisions and deal with patients and their relatives who are worried or upset. 

My name is Anne Mcelwain. I'm a Medical secretary at the Royal Hospital for Children in NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde.

My job is varied from day to day, but mainly it's audio typing and dealing with telephone queries. [I do] a lot of managing for doctors to organise their time, which could be from arranging theatre lists and space in the theatre for surgery, to managing appointment waiting lists, but mainly dealing with parents' phone calls.

The skills I bring to the job would be really good typing skills, excellent spelling skills and a eye for accuracy. Obviously, you're typing really important letters, so you need to make sure that everything is extremely accurate.

The challenges in this job would be the busy environment. There can be an awful lot of noise, general chit chat, phones ringing, so you have to concentrate on what you're doing.

I enjoy this job. I've been in it for 17 years now, in different aspects of the hospital. I enjoy knowing I've helped the doctors out in their busy days. I enjoy knowing I've helped patients out on the phone or face to face, because they're on a journey through the hospital. So, if you can help them in any way, make that journey smoother, then that's the satisfaction I get when I go home at night.

A Medical Secretary will carry out these tasks:

  • deal with consultants' correspondence
  • arrange appointments with patients and manage the diary of the consultation
  • handle patient’s queries
  • work together with other healthcare staff
  • carry out administrative jobs like word processing and filing and record management.

In a GP practice, they handle correspondence and phone calls about a range of different conditions.

Medical Secretaries are expected to use their own initiative, make decisions and deal with patients and their relatives who are worried or upset. There is significant contact with patients, GPs and other healthcare staff.

Good knowledge of medical terminology is especially important for Medical Secretarial roles.

Some Medical Secretaries also work as a Personal Assistant (PA) and combine the two roles.

A Personal Assistant usually carries out these tasks:

  • works for a specific director or the chief executive managing their diary, sending out agendas for meetings and taking minutes
  • deals with correspondence and organise travel arrangements
  • is responsible for maintaining details of certain budgets and ordering stationery
  • is responsible for booking resources such as rooms, audio-visual equipment and refreshments for meetings and other events.

Useful skills include:

  • good IT skills
  • excellent communication skills
  • accuracy and attention to detail
  • good level of plain English, spelling and grammar
  • good time management skills
  • strong organisational skills

Useful abilities include:

  • the ability to work to deadlines
  • tact and discretion
  • the ability to work on own initiative
  • the ability to prioritise tasks and workload

Medical Secretaries and Personal Assistants are likely to need a good standard of English and Maths. Some office experience and basic IT skills with word processing are useful skills to have for administrative roles.

The specific entry requirements will depend on the role. The qualifications asked for may also vary depending on the recruiting NHSScotland Board. You are advised to contact each individual Board to find out its specific entry requirements.


Modern Apprenticeships offer those aged over 16 paid employment with the opportunity to train for jobs at craft, technician and management level.

Modern Apprenticeships in Business and Administration at SCQF Level 5 or SCQF Level 6 are frameworks for people interested in working in business and administration, and customer service. Find out more about these Modern Apprenticeships on the Skills Development Scotland (SDS) website:

Modern Apprenticeships in Healthcare Support (Non-clinical) at SCQF Level 6 and SCQF Level 7 are frameworks for people interested in working in a healthcare setting in a non-clinic support role. For more information about this Modern Apprenticeship framework, look at:

Contact your local Board to find out if these Modern Apprenticeships are available in your area.


You will be encouraged to develop your career in NHSScotland and you will be given the training you need for the job including:

  • an introduction to the department and its procedures
  • health and safety
  • risk management

During your career, you may have the opportunity to study for additional qualifications, such as:

Visit the Scottish Qualification Authority website to find out more about the full range of SVQs for people working in the NHS.

Gaining new qualifications will help your career prospects, leading to more senior roles with a greater level of responsibility.

It may be possible through further training to progress to a supervisory or even management role such as an Office Manager, Team Leader, GP Practice Manager or other senior roles in business and administration.

Learn more about the NHSScotland Education Pathways for Business and Administration.