General practice (GP)
General practitioners (GPs) treat all common medical conditions and refer patients to hospitals and other medical services for urgent and specialist treatment. They focus on the health of the whole person combining physical, psychological and social aspects of care.
The video of Dr Hannah Warren (née Lambert) records her experiences as a GP.
Nature of the work
GPs are primary care doctors providing the first point of contact with the NHS for most people in their communities. GPs help patients by trying to identify problems they may have at an early stage which could be as varied as an infectious disease, cancer or a safeguarding issue. They are the trusted adults to whom patients first turn for advice and support. GPs also try wherever possible to maintain the health of patients through preventive care and health promotion.
GPs treat conditions such as:
- hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, kidney disease and other chronic and long-term conditions
- emotional, stress-related and other mild to moderate psychiatric illnesses
- one-to-one consultations
- drug prescribing
- diagnostics (near-patient testing)
- checking patients’ test results and advocating the right course of action to take
- running clinics, for example, for chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes
- implementing preventive initiatives such as prescribing incentive schemes, supporting carers and helping patients to be active partners in the management of their own health
- safeguarding vulnerable children and adults by prompt action
- carrying out general practice audits to improve systems and outcomes of care as part of the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) target system
- improving patients’ experience of the GP practice by asking them for feedback
- doing official tasks such as signing repeat prescriptions and death certificates, filling out statements of fitness for work and preparing letters and reports
- being involved in decisions about upgrading equipment and premises
- undertaking professional learning and development and preparing for revalidation (every five years)
GP with special interests
GPs with special interests (GPwSI) usually work clinically across a PCO (Primary Care Organisation) area or similar to help to reduce specialist waiting times and address local health needs. Some GPwSIs work with a local commissioning group helping to develop local guidelines, services and pathways of care. It is also common for medium to large group practices to share out the workload and encourage individuals to develop special interests and skills, for example, in dementia.
Want to learn more?
Find out more about:
- the working life of someone in GP
- the entry requirements and training and development
- GP specialty through our vodcasts page
- a general practitioner with a specialist interest
- a first-hand account of life in GP
- Pay and conditions Expand / Collapse
This section provides useful information about the pay for GPs.
NHS employers provides useful advice and guidance on all NHS pay, contracts terms and conditions.
Medical staff working in private sector hospitals, the armed services or abroad will be paid on different scales.
- Where the role can lead Expand / Collapse
The role can lead to many possibilities depending on your career preferences which can, of course, change at different times in your life. Opportunities to work full-time or flexibly are plentiful.
In a GP practice, you can aim to become:
- a Principal (partner) in a GP practice if you are interested in the business side of things and want to put the effort into building up a practice
- a salaried or employed GP if you are mainly interested in clinical care and retaining flexibility over the hours you work and where you work
- a sessional GP doing locum and freelance work
Opportunities alongside or outside of traditional general practice include:
- developing a specialism within GP work in areas such as adolescent health, palliative medicine, minor surgical procedures and muscoskeletal medicine. See the article about GPs with GPwSIs
- becoming a clinical assistant to a consultant in a hospital outpatient clinic or ward
- participating in research and development (R&D) for university departments, NHS research networks and pharmaceutical companies
- teaching and tutoring at undergraduate or postgraduate level or in continuing professional development (CPD)
- appraising GPs
- advising or serving on a Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) or other health service bodies
- examining for the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP)
- achieving the Fellowship of the RCGP
- working as a volunteer in the community and for charities
- working in occupational medicine (focusing on health in the workplace) for the NHS, the military or private industry
- working with special groups of people in prisons, the armed services and on ships
- working as a police doctor and becoming a forensic medical examiner
- working in medical journalism or medical politics
GPs considering taking a career break can read advice from the BMA. A break from clinical practice of less than two years will not normally require a period of retraining. Longer than that, they will have to undertake and pay for a period of retraining (an induction and refresher scheme).
- Job market and vacancies Expand / Collapse
This section provides useful information about the availability of jobs, finding vacancies and where to find out more.
Job market information
Find out more about general practice by accessing the Centre for Workforce Intelligence (CfWI) profile of the general practice workforce in England (CfWI, 2014). The CfWI has identified a shortage in the number of GPs being trained to meet the demands of an ageing population. This is likely to lead to a major workforce demand-supply imbalance by 2020; but any future expansion of training places will need to be linked to overall funding for the NHS. One of the objectives of Health Education England is to ensure that 50% of medical trainees choose general practice training by 2016.
General Practice is the largest medical specialty group representing 41% of the entire medical workforce. By 2016, the Department of Health expects 50% of training posts to be in General Practice. The UK has over 40,000 doctors working as GPs. This represents just over 36,000 full-time equivalent GPs. Just over half of all GPs are women. Department of Health data shows that doctors entering General Practice training are typically older than other specialties. This is an indication that trainees tend to choose a GP specialisation later in their careers. There are just under 8,000 GP practices in England with a trend towards fewer larger practices.
Competition ratios tell you how many applications were received relative to the number of places available. The ratios may give you an indication of general trends in applicant behaviour but they vary from year to year and the competition in some parts of the country may be higher than in others. To make the best use of the ratio data, look at the number of applications received and cross-reference that information with the number of applicants who were shortlisted and subsequently attended an interview. Find out the latest competition ratios.
The competition ratio nationally (2014) for entry to specialty training was 1.6:1 for 3392 posts available. The competition is generally highest in London where the ratio in 2013 was 4:1 for 400 places. Between 2013 and 2014, the number of General Practice posts in the UK rose by 604 posts.
For information regarding Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland please click on the links below.
Where to look for vacancies
The GP National Recruitment Office (GPNRO) handles recruitment to GP Specialty Training.
Applicants can view vacancies and register for specialty training on Oriel.
Doctors can apply for vacancies online at NHS Jobs.
Vacancies in general practice are also advertised online by PULSE Today.
- Further information Expand / Collapse
- 'Nothing General' campaign
- Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP)
- GP National Recruitment Office (GPNRO)
- National Association of Sessional GPs
- Family Doctor Association
- Medical Women’s Federation
- Londonwide Local Medical Committees