Episode One – Pros and cons of the four GP career paths


In the first of this series we look at some of the traditional career pathways for young GPs who are finishing up in training.

Making the right choice

The choices you make as a young GP at this stage of your career will potentially affect your earning potential, your job satisfaction and your overall health both mental and physical into the future. Too often young GPs take up positions after graduating from their training scheme because they have trained in a practice or they know the area or because in their minds it is more comfortable to stay around and take that job offer for the short term.

Now is the time to take a breath, sit back and put on paper the type of work that interests you and start to think of that 5 year plan. Medicine is a very traditional career with historic pathways and there is a tendency to feel pressure to conform with the expected. I have colleagues in all different areas of General Practice:

  1. Salaried
  2. Salaried with a view to Partnership
  3. Part time with a specialism
  4. Locum.

Here is some of the feedback based on discussions with them which will be helpful to you going forward as you begin to plot your own pathway

1. Salaried

Salaried in a practice will suit some of you who wish to go into work, see your patients, and get paid a monthly salary without responsibility over the elements of practice business management. A clean clinical presence and guaranteed monthly salary at the end of each month.

I have two colleagues who had very different experiences of this type of practice. One was very clear in her parameters before she took on the salaried position; length of consultation time that she felt most comfortable with, specified protected time for following up on her patient test results and referrals, maximum number of patients she felt safe to see in a day with her specified breaks, number of house calls that she would take herself, and the number of days in the week that she was available. She is still working in that practice 10 years later and has retained her enthusiasm for the job.

My second colleague however did not specify any of the above. She was loaded with all the urgent cases on top of those already booked for her clinic. She had no protected time for paperwork and often ate a sandwich for lunch at her desk whilst trying to catch up on that  paperwork. She got paid her monthly salary but reckons that she worked unpaid for an hour and a half per day. She persevered for 5 years as a salaried GP but now she does locums 3 days a week and picks her regular practices carefully to suit her consulting style.

2. Salaried with a view to Partnership

Be careful of your contracts going into this arrangement. Young GPs will often take reduced salaries with the promise that they will be made a Partner at some time in the future. Reputable practices will offer you a contract at the start with the date in the future where that partnership becomes active. What is your partnership share split on that contract and what is the partnership arrangement if a Partner becomes unwell and unable to work in the practice or if partners resign?

Whilst this used to be very popular as a career choice, more and more GPs are finding that with increased clinical workloads and NHS associated administration work, there isn’t much time left to effectively run the business of the practice as a Partner. Resignations in some areas are increasing.

3. Part time with a specialism

Some colleagues work part time in general practice and have extra qualifications in areas such as Dermatology, Aesthetic Medicine or Sports Medicine. Whilst taking extra time and effort often as you are qualifying, this does open the doors to a hybrid form of practice where, as an example, you may contract out some of your time to a hospital dermatology department and assist in the running of the clinics there, or run a separate private Aesthetic Medicine clinic. This is an increasingly popular choice with my younger colleagues.

4. Locums 

This possibly provides the best option for establishing GPs. You can vary the geographical area in which you work, the amount of hours you work per week and get to know what type of practice style suits you best. It gives you the opportunity to work in various different practices, in different locations, so that you can get an insight into practice ethos, staff interactions and daily workloads. There is a business management element as well if you set up your own company or work through an umbrella company and generally rates of pay are higher as you are contracting your services into a practice.

Choosing a path

Whatever your career aspirations going forward, at Woodston Personnel UK we pride ourselves on providing expert individualised advice and career opportunities to our young establishing GPs. We work with you individually and tailor the position options we provide to your preferred style of consulting and time availability. We roster your work around what is optimal for you as an individual.

You can view some of our open positions by visiting our job board, or feel free to reach out to info@woodstonpersonnel.com for more information or to discuss your career options.

Our next post will look at day to day issues in practices that expose you medico-legally.

About the Author

Dr Brendan Woods is a qualified GP and a member of the RCGP. He ran a successful General Practice for many years and was a GP Trainer for 15 years. He is the Managing Partner of a global medical recruitment company Woodston Personnel Ltd and Woodston Personnel UK. The company’s experienced Medical Partners, team of Recruitment Consultants and Personal Relationship Managers provide daily advice and direction to all their GP candidates and assist them in their career objectives.

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