GPs have long been at the heart of general practices. In modern day Primary Care, the GP remit has expanded but their core role still centres around consulting with patients to diagnose, treat, support and prevent disease. As a truly general speciality, GPs see the whole spectrum of ailments, from paediatrics to care of the elderly, common cold to cancer, genetics to public health and everything in between. Over a career, GPs will see from common diseases to the very rare, continually enhancing skills across the breadth of medicine, risk management and communication. GPs are privileged in being trusted to support those for whom they care through some of the most challenging times in their lives be that medically, socially or psychologically. They offer continuity of care, often forging relationships with their patients that last decades and span generations.
Current GPs work in a variety of capacities – from GP partner (“owners” of a practice), to salaried GPs (employed by the practice) to Locums (operate often across a variety of sites as self-employed individuals on and as-and-when needed basis). Each model has its benefits, but the flexibility offers GPs the opportunity for work in the context of their personal lives and interests. Depending on their exact role, many GPs have additional responsibilities that may include e.g. supervision of allied healthcare professionals, education of trainees, quality improvement/service development activities, business management roles or research posts. The job is is highly varied with no two days the same, but each rewarding and offering the opportunity to learn and progress.
Benefits for the Practice
- Provision of safe and effective care to the population
- Supporting or leading on progressing the range of services offered
- Supporting in the operational, financial and legal workings of the practice
- Supervision and support of allied professionals
Benefits for the Patient
- Diagnosing and treating/managing any and all presentations
- Working towards proactive disease prevention
- Supporting self-care and general health
- Acting as a patient advocate and liaison with secondary care
- Fostering and maintaining a trusting relationship with patients
Training & Development
GP training involves a 5-year undergraduate degree in medicine recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC), 2 years of Foundation training as a qualified Dr to gain practical experience across a range of specialities and then a 3-year specialist qualification in general practice. As for all doctors, education is lifelong with each day offering an opportunity to learn and improve practice.
There are many opportunities for GPs to develop a portfolio career in Primary Care:
- Fellowships: These are designed to progress a GP’s knowledge and skills around a particular area of interest. They are undertaken along-side a GPs normal role and provide a year of formal, funded education around a given area of practice combined with real-world project work that advances local care. e.g. A GP may undertake a fellowship in Frailty that combines post-graduate education in the subject with time working in a frailty unit. Fellowships are released yearly with the subject offered being based around local service need.
- Extended Role: Additional, accredited training can allow GPs to gain qualifications in areas of specialist interest. They may then work in roles in which they undertake specialist clinics often bridging the gap between primary and secondary care. The list of specialities offering training and the opportunity to operate as a GPwER (GP with extended role) is ever expanding but common examples include cardiology, dermatology, ENT, frailty, psychiatry and ophthalmology.
- Clinical Supervisor: Many surgeries now have additional members of the clinical team that have direct and often first contact with patients. These members of the team have valuable specialist skillsets and are supported by GPs to allow them to apply said skills effectively in the primary care environment. e.g. paramedic practitioners, clinical pharmacists, physician’s associates to name but a few. The role often involves discussion around more complex cases, support with ongoing learning and role development.
- Educational role: Following appropriate qualification, many GPs act as supervisors for medical students, trainee GPs and allied healthcare professionals in training. This highly rewarding role is undertaken alongside day-to-day work and helps shape the future of the workforce. There are many other opportunities to become involved with training that can include work with the local training hubs, simulation team and the medical school.
- Partner: GP partners combine their clinical duties and a business role with many having direct ownership of the practice. They shape the operation of their surgery to fulfil its vision, mission and values, directly seeing the fruits of their efforts in the success of their practice. This highly varied role combines operational, financial, legal and clinical duties and is dynamic with both local and national population needs and agendas.