Working life (GP)
This page provides useful information about the roles and responsibilities of GPs, where they work, who they work with and what they feel about their role.
“The joy of general practice is its infinite variety. You simply never know what you will be dealing with next. It could be a simple sore throat, a heart attack, a chest infection, a schizophrenic breakdown, a pregnancy or a convulsing child. Being a brain surgeon may be seen by some as a more glamorous career, but no other branch of medicine has the remarkable variety of general practice.” - Royal College of General Practitioners
How your time is spent
Working life varies considerably for GPs. A GP in a rural area, for example, will have different priorities to a GP in an inner city. The size of the practice also makes a difference to what GPs do. A GP in a single practice will have a different professional life to those who work in a GP-owned group practice or a health centre built and run by a local health authority or local NHS trust. The trend is for GP practices to get bigger and provide a wider range of diagnostic and treatment facilities as well as services such as a dispensary. The NHS is keen to encourage GP practices to work together in federations.
The GPs working life is also influenced by whether they are a principal (partner) with responsibility for running the practice as a business, a salaried (employed) GP or a sessional (locum or freelance) GP.
GPs can also vary their working life by:
- working part-time
- working out of hours
- developing a special interest in an area such as dermatology or diabetes
- taking on a clinical assistant role at their local hospital
- doing charity work
- getting involved in the running of their local clinical commissioning group (CCG)
In England a significant proportion of a GP’s time is now spent on non-clinical responsibilities, including working with the new clinical commissioning groups (CCGs). All GP groups are members of the local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) set up in 2013 which make decisions about buying services for everyone living in their area. The services include:
- elective (non-emergency) hospital care
- rehabilitation care such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy and psychotherapy
- urgent and emergency care such as A&E, ambulance services, and NHS 111
- community health services such as such as rehabilitation services, speech and language therapy, continence services, wheelchair services and home oxygen services
- mental health services
- services for people with learning disabilities
- maternity and newborn services (excluding neonatal intensive care)
- children's healthcare services
- infertility services
GPs who choose to represent their practices or sit on the board of their local CCG will have contact with other healthcare professionals, representatives of patients and local government and voluntary sector representatives. These additional responsibilities may reduce the time spent on direct patient care.
Most GP surgeries are contracted to be open and available for patients from 8.30am to 6.30pm, although many GPs need to be in surgery from before 8am and after 6.30pm. Every day varies but typically most GPs hold two sessions per day of consultations with patients in their surgeries with visits and administration fitted around them. They may visit patients in their homes as well as in care homes. The target consultation time is typically 10 minutes per patient. They may see 30-40 patients per day. GPs may make additional contact with patients through phone calls and email. The number of patients looked after by a GP varies but on average is around 1,800.
- Who you will work with? Expand / Collapse
GPs work alongside:
- GP colleagues
- practice nurses and other healthcare professionals, e.g. phlebotomists
- practice managers, medical secretaries and administrative staff
They also work closely with:
- Attractions and challenges of the role Expand / Collapse
GPs are attracted to the role for diverse reasons. They may enjoy:
- having autonomy in their work
- being able to undertake a variety of work with all age groups, types of disease and problems
- co-ordinating care and being independent advocates for patients
- providing holistic care – treating patients as people rather than as ‘diseases’ or ‘cases’
- providing continuity of care – building trusting relationships with patients and their families over a long period
- doing preventive and promotional health work alongside diagnosis and treatment
- being involved in their local communities
GPs may also be attracted by the pay and conditions. They can reach a relatively high income early in their career and it is one of the specialties most suited to part-time and flexible working. They also have good opportunities to live and work where they want.
The challenges of the role may include:
- the growing workload, especially dealing with complex psycho-social as well as medical problems within the standard ten-minute consultation
- not knowing what problems patients are going to present with in order to make an accurate assessment of their needs
- keeping up-to-date with the enormous range of diseases and service changes
- keeping on top of administrative tasks
- dealing with difficult patients and work colleagues
- not taking their own health seriously and suffering from stress and burn-out
- uncertainty about future models and funding of GP services