One career, endless opportunities – what it means to be a GP today

Case study summary

The modern GP role allows more scope to specialise in research or leadership, offering a diverse and fulfilling career.

 

General practice is changing and Health Education England is spearheading the “nothing general about general practice” campaign to promote the profession and what it has to offer.

Describing it as “one career, endless opportunities”, the campaign uses short films, digital adverts and testaments from qualified GPs to help promote the idea of a “portfolio” career to medical trainees who may not have otherwise considered general practice as a career choice.

As independent contractors, GPs have a lot of control over how they work with their patients and with so many different commitments it can be easy to overlook just how intellectually and medically challenging the role actually is. Adapting to new ways of providing care, particularly over the last five years, and continuing to learn, means general practice is a diverse and fulfilling career.

Pursuing opportunities such as conducting research in academia or taking up business and leadership roles within a practice and locality allows doctors to develop clinical and business skills. What many people don’t realise is that the most visible but lesser-known opportunities for a GP can include working in an urgent care centre, administering treatment at festivals, on a sports field, or even supporting an expedition team.

Whitstable Medical Practice

A fantastic example of a practice working at the edge of innovation and allowing GPs to work with a multi-disciplinary team to get a huge breadth of experience and support is Whitstable Medical Practice in Kent.

The practice is an NHS GP super-partnership, which achieved an outstanding rating from the Care Quality Commission. Staff morale is good and patient feedback is excellent. It operates from three sites, serving a population of approximately 36,000 people. Twenty GPs are encouraged to plan their hours to suit lifestyle, family commitments and combine clinical practice with further career opportunities. This means there is more scope to specialise and focus on areas of interest and expertise.

Across the country, specialist services are moving out of hospitals and closer to people’s homes, with GPs interacting daily with other healthcare colleagues to share best practice and agree care plans for their patients. Career rewards for GPs include the satisfaction of building relationships and providing continued care for patients dealing with all stages of life.

Whitstable Medical Practice has integrated care under one roof, including patient services for long-term conditions, diagnostic facilities and more than 30 outpatient clinics along with a minor injury unit with x-ray. It provides day surgery, cataract and dermatological operations. Whitstable’s musculoskeletal team has an on-site chiropractor and physiotherapist to complete the vast range of care on offer. As a result, trainee GPs can gain experience in the breadth of services as part of dedicated teams in the heart of the local community.

“Our model combines traditional ‘named GP’ general practice with innovative working at scale. This enables GPs to feel part of an energetic multi-disciplinary team,” says Dr John Ribchester, senior and executive partner of Whitstable Medical Practice.

“New GPs are encouraged to develop their skills to pursue speciality interests, or consider a role in training and research. One consequence of this model is very high satisfaction among patients, GPs and practice staff.”

Young doctors often say one of the great attractions of working in general practice is working within a community, the relationships they are able to build, and continuity of care with their patients.

Resident Sue Langdown has witnessed the development of services offered by the practice.

“The community’s healthcare needs can be largely attended to in one place by the team of professionals at the practice,” she says. “We can book appointments with GPs, many of whom are highly qualified and skilled in specialist areas, or be referred to local clinics and specialist services like audiology, with ease. The administration is streamlined, the medical centres are modern and friendly – it all works. The perception in the local area is good as a result.

“Doctors sit at the heart of it all. The younger GPs bring their own new perspectives and qualities and are already widely experienced. We are fortunate to have such a level of expertise and continuity of care on our doorstep.”