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:

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:

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.

Working hours

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.

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