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So, you want to be a GP?

By Gabriela Barzyk

So, you are thinking of General Practice (GP) as a career? This article covers what being a GP entails, different types of GPs, how to prepare for application during medical school, and details the application process and training pathway.

What is GP?

General Practice offers a varied workload – from seeing common presentations on a regular basis, to looking after patients with rare diseases. From doing medication reviews and referrals, to seeing a patient who presents with a serious condition for the very first time. Furthemore, seeing newborn babies and performing baby checks, doing asthma reviews, discussing family planning, dealing with chronic conditions, redirecting patients to support services, seeing patients in care homes and providing palliative care – each patient appointment brings a unique set of presentations and challenges making the work of GPs really exciting.

You are the first point of contact with healthcare for many patients, and each day may offer a different set of jobs and tasks as GP provides a mix of all other specialties. You will have the opportunity to utilise clinical skills daily while also having the opportunity to focus on your special interests or academic work.

You will develop long-term relationships with patients and their relatives – commonly treating entire families and multiple generations living in the area. You will be able to see patients progress overtime and manage their health with any health changes, while also considering wider aspects of their health.

Although you see patients independently during their appointments, you will be involved in a multidisciplinary team each day. Alongside the support of other GPs at the practice, you will communicate and work closely with nurses, physiotherapists, practice-based pharmacists, community mental health and social workers, and hospital based teams to name a few.

Day-day work

The working day of a GP may look differently each day due to the sheer variety of patients coming through the door.

In general, the day consists of morning and afternoon GP clinics which last for about 4-hours each and are made up of 10-minute appointments (some appointments may be longer) per patient. Between morning and afternoon clinics, you are likely to carry out administrative duties such as reviewing prescriptions, reading patient letters or attending practice meetings. You may also carry out community visits and see patients at their homes within this time. Each set of the half-day of clinic is called a “session” and a full-time GP may carry out about 8-9 sessions per week, although many opt to do fewer sessions each week, usually 4-6, and focus on other work such as teaching or academia.

Different GP types

You may have heard the terms “practice partner” or “portfolio GP” – here is a breakdown of what these are in relation to working as a GP:

  • Salaried GP is a permanent staff member at a GP practice. They run daily GP clinics and have a stable income. They are not involved in the managerial side of running a GP practice. On average, you earn £63,000-£90,000 per year*.

  • Locum GP takes up available shifts i.e. when the practice is short-staffed as a result of staff sickness or annual leave. They may also have a long-term position within the practice e.g. when covering a salaried GPs planned sabbatical or a maternity/paternity leave. Locum work offers more flexibility, however obtaining shifts may be more competitive depending on area of clinical work. On average, you earn £75-100 per hour*.

  • Portfolio GP has an additional role to their day-day GP work. This can include teaching, health consultancy, doing work in their area of special interest like carrying out small scale surgical procedures or gynaecology clinics at the practice site (GP with special interest)

  • Practice Partner is a GP who has ownership of the practice, allowing them to manage the day-day running of the practice. They make various managerial decisions and look after the finance of the practice, in addition to their day-day GP job. On average, you earn £110,000 -120,000 per year* depending on the practice business.

*Please note these are average earnings. GPs can have additional income from other work such as providing out-of-hours services, in addition to other opportunities listed below.

Other opportunities

  • Academic GP may be involved in various aspects of research while working as a GP. This may mean you dedicate a certain day of the week or a certain amount of working hours towards research work. For example, the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) offers 75% clinical/25% research and education fellowship posts.

  • Teaching as GP – you will have teaching opportunities in numerous aspects of GP work – from supervising medical students while running clinics to supporting new GP trainees (as a trainer, you will meet trainees on a daily basis and support them with their development). You may also teach at a local university or get involved in other aspects of teaching.

What to do – portfolio building during medical school

Having an extensive portfolio is not a requirement for a career as a GP. Good portfolio will showcase your abilities and help you to stand out when preparing for interviews (although not everyone undergoes an interview