I just thought I would share my experience as a working GP. I appreciate that many of you will not become GPs. However, there appear to be some misconceptions about GPs. Hence, I thought I would share my experience.
Life as a GP
I work as a GP Partner along with 5 other GPs in a clinic where we have 10,000 registered patients. We train medical students, FY2 and GP trainees. Many of our FY2 (Foundation Year 2) doctors leave being converted to GP life. It’s a fantastic job and I feel privileged to be able to do it. MRCGP is mandatory. The UK has a severe shortage of GPs and the government are recruiting GPs from abroad so now is a good time to train as a GP.
You Are Your Own Boss
You are your own boss as a GP partner and decide how to structure your day in agreement with your other GP partners in the clinic. For instance, when my kids were younger I started work at 10 and now they’re older I start at 9. GP life is very flexible and family friendly.
GP is like having your own business. If you work hard and hit all targets you earn more. We have a yearly accountant meeting to discuss profits, etc. It’s totally different to working in a hospital; there you are an employee of the hospital. Here we are our own bosses because we’re self-employed, independent practitioners who agree to provide General Medical Services for a fee from the NHS. We recruit and employ our own staff. For example, nurses, receptionist etc. Our Practice manager runs the whole operation smoothly, looking at ways we can improve our clinical care; how to increase profit, managing staff, etc and leaving us to concentrate on patients.
Four-Days-a-Week is Full Time
For most GPs 4 days = full-time. So good work-life balance. Plus you can arrange with your partners when you want to start work and how you want to work over the week. That’s not possible elsewhere in the NHS.
It’s rewarding. You cultivate a rewarding relationship with your patients over a lifetime and the other GPs in your clinic end up being life-long friends as you’re with them until you retire usually.
I see 10 patients @ 15minute appointments over two and a half hours. I do a session in the morning followed by lunch. Then a two-and-a-half-hour session in the afternoon. Probably about an hour for admin type work. So it’s less onerous than hospital work. I work 6 sessions spread over 4 days. So I work 2 full days and 2 half days where I finish at 1 pm. I have 1 day off a week like my colleagues. The male doctors in our practice choose to work 8 sessions over 4 days which we deem as full-time. Plus the best bit is NO on-call in the evenings or weekends ever!
Life as a GP is never boring as you never know what patients will present with. On a typical day, I could be managing palliative symptoms in a cancer patient, obstetric complications, a depressed patient, a patient with chronic kidney disease, a case of sepsis etc. It’s a true Generalist role and mentally challenging as patients are living longer with more complex conditions/polypharmacy and this is why my job never bores me.
We have the means to investigate fully so the job is very satisfying. For example, if a patient presents with back pain, I can arrange blood tests or MRI and interpret the results and decide if physiotherapy, Neurosurgery or pain management is appropriate. I only refer to hospital for emergencies or to out-patients for further specialist treatment. The job keeps you on your toes; you have to keep up to date with developments and guidelines in all areas like cardiology, paediatrics, ENT, diabetes, etc.
Specialization and Other Interests
You can specialise in areas you’re interested in. I did a post-graduate course in Diabetes and run a diabetic clinic in-house and manage over 90% of our diabetic patients. Other colleagues do minor surgery and joint injections, contraception clinics etc. Furthermore, if you trained in a different speciality before becoming a GP then you can still work one session in hospital. One of my friends did dermatology before becoming a GP and still does one outpatient clinic to keep her interest/skills.
Some GP’s work part-time and do other stuff like teaching at medical school, getting involved with politics such as work with CCGs, etc. Hence the term Portfolio GPs.
It’s very well paid considering the hours you work and no on-call. Full-time partners can earn over £150,000 gross.
We get 38 days annual leave, so that’s almost 8 weeks fully paid leave. In my opinion, that’s better paid and less work than NHS consultants where you work as an employee and follow hospital working patterns as in working 5 days a week, 9 to 5 plus on call.
You can retire early in your late 50s as our senior partner will be doing, collect your NHS pension lump sum and then return 24 hours later on full pay and a pension. Many GPs retire and then work as locums, doing a few locums when it suits them to keep their hand in and to earn extra on top of their pensions.
You can do locum work outside your own clinic and work lucrative shifts if you want to earn extra for a holiday etc. I don’t do locums but many of my friends do. They earn a £100 per hour seeing 4 patients per hour. So if you did a 6-hour locum on Saturday and Sunday then that’s £1200 for a weekend’s work.
Higher Locum Rate
You get paid 1.5 times the rate if you work Christmas or bank holidays as a Locum. So not bad at £150 per hour to see 4 patients who present with acute illnesses such as a simple cold, UTI, etc. If they present with any non-urgent or chronic conditions then you ask them to see their own GP during office hours in the week. So it’s easy and lucrative work doing locum work.
Locum As a Primary Job
Many GPs choose not to work as partners in one clinic. They work as locums only, filling in sessions for other GPs if they are short staffed or doing out of hours work. My brother does this as he likes the freedom of locum work and the fact you have virtually no admin type work to do. GP shortage means locum work will always be lucrative.
CPD or Continuing Professional Development. You have to do 50 hours education per year as part of your annual appraisal. It’s easy to do as there are lots of drug-sponsored conferences, local meetings, online stuff, internal audits, etc.
Another GP ( Appraiser) meets you once a year to go through your folder and, to be honest, it is like having a friendly chat – nothing stressful. They cannot fail you unless you do no educational stuff at all or end up doing something illegal.
None! Apart from ever-increasing paperwork and patient demands which are universal!
Wishing all of you much success with PLAB and your future careers. I can not compare to other countries but, in my opinion, life as a GP is very rewarding here in the UK. You will not regret your decision!
(The author is a practicing GP in the NHS. This post was published with the author’s consent).