PTS Medical: Why you need a Sponsor AND a Sentinel Number

To work on the railway within the UK, all railway workers much have an in-date PTS Medical and have had a Drug and Alcohol Screening. However, in order for any medical assessment to be carried out, a person must have a Sponsor and a Sentinel Number

Network Rail rules outline that PTS Medicals or Drug and Alcohol Screening services cannot be carried out unless a Sentinel Number is provided beforehand. This number is vital for uploading the medical assessment detail to the Sentinel System once completed. It must also be noted that medical reports and results can not be added to sentinel retrospectively.

A Sponsor is most likely to be an employer, and it is their responsibility to ensure the rail worker has a sentinel number. Once this is provided, they are able to arrange railway medicals for the employee. 


What’s included in a PTS Medical?


  • General health questionnaire
  • Drug and alcohol test
  • Weight/BMI
  • Vision test using Snellen
  • Vision test using Ishihara for colour blindness
  • Blood pressure
  • Audiometry
  • Pulse
  • Urinalysis


The outcome of the medical will determine any limitations to working on the track. Including whether the employee can work alone, or whether they need to be accompanied on the railway. 

Once complete, the PTS Medical results will be directly uploaded to the Sentinel Portal by a member of the Acorn team. 


What do employees need beforehand? 


So that employees can complete the required training and medicals, there are certain things that a person needs before they can complete these.


A Sponsor


Every worker needs to be sponsored in order to work on the railway. But did you know that having a sponsor is a requirement for a PTS Medical to be completed? 

The job of a sponsor is to put an employee through training, arrange their medical assessments and purchase their Sentinel Card. The Sponsor should ensure that a person is able to work on the railway safely.

It’s important to note, that your sponsor should be RISQS registered. This accreditation is required for anyone working on or with the Great British Rail Industry. 


A Sentinel Card 


To work on the railway, every rail worker needs a Sentinel Card. These are proof that the person is safe to be working on the railway and in the railway environment. More often than not, your employer will purchase a Sentinel Card on behalf of the employee. But sponsors can also be a rail recruitment provider or a company to which a person provides self-employed railway work service.

** Acorn is unable to complete a PTS Medical or a Drug and Alcohol test for anyone who does not have both a Sponsor and a Sentinel Number prior to their assessment.
However, Acorn does offer an option for individuals who may have to demonstrate to a potential sponsor that they are likely to meet the medical requirements required for a PTS card.  We can perform a safety critical medical, paid for by the individual, to the same standards that would need to be met for a PTS medical. This can be then utilised by the individual in demonstrating their current fitness to a potential sponsor.


The Sentinel System


Sentinel is owned and run by Network Rail. Sentinel is a third-party system, a database that stores information about people who are trained to work on the railway. Each person will have their own Sentinel Number. 

The system is used at the beginning of every shift on the railway. It is used to confirm your credentials are relevant and valid, once checked, you are able to safely begin work on the railway for that shift. 


PTS Medical VS PTS Training 


Before railway workers can begin any work on the railway, they must complete their PTS training. More often than not, a worker’s employer will put them forward for this course. Plus any other relevant training which must be completed before they start work. But in order to complete this PTS training, a medical assessment is required.

A PTS Medical is completed to understand whether a railway worker has a good enough level of health to be able to work on the railway. This ensures that they are fit and healthy enough to complete their jobs safely, without endangering themselves or anyone else. Especially as they work in a high-risk environment.


PTS Medical: Why you need a Sponsor AND a Sentinel Number

**Please note, Acorn does not offer PTS Training as a service. 


Contact Us


Our PTS Medicals can be arranged for a single person, or for larger groups of employees. We also offer Drug and Alcohol Screening along with railway medicals. See all our available PTS and D&A options.

If you’d like to discuss our PTS Medicals further, please get in touch with our team. Visit our FAQs page, call us at 01260 277797, or email us at

Want to know more about the Occupational Health services we provide at Acorn, and how they could benefit your business and your employees? Please get in touch.