GP recruitment: 'Time for GPs to stop moaning and start promoting general practice'

What's the future for general practice? Work in the NHS is tough and responses from colleagues to my article on the 'Top ten reasons to be an NHS GP' reflected the times in which we work.

One respondent to my reasons to be a GP said the GP pension was limited - but actually it’s the best public service pension there is. More worryingly another person wrote that they would actively discourage a career in general practice and promote other graduate jobs instead. This is what I call ‘moaning’.

It is good to moan - it's cathartic and lets off steam. However, we are losing future GPs as a result. Students tell me they really enjoyed their GP attachment but hearing so many GPs moaning has put them off and even a recent FY2 in my own practice who has really enjoyed their experience and said we had sold general practice to them, has chosen to work in a hospital specialty. Why?

Moaning is forcing out potential GPs

This doctor had talked to their other FY2 colleagues who said they had all been put off by hearing GPs moaning - ‘so don't go into GP’. We must stop moaning or at least stop when there are trainees around us, otherwise we will have no trainees and we really will have something to moan about.

We need to say what is good about general practice, so I was heartened to read the comments that ‘GP is the last bastion of the general physician’ and yes ‘It is a stressful job but very rewarding.’

Likewise, the comment that we are still independent contractors and can determine our own destiny which hospital doctors cannot: ‘The truth is that GP is what you, your partners and your practice make it.’ We are not badly paid and we can ‘Enjoy the freedom and relative independence of GP,’ as one commenter put it.

Working abroad is not always the answer

Everyone goes on about the Antipodes. I worked in New Zealand for a year but the grass is not as green there as people would have us think nor the salaries as good as comments would suggest.

You might lose your NHS pension rights. You will need to buy into a practice, which could be in a very remote area, and selling a practice is not always easy either. Isolation is quite likely and, after 12 months, being eligible for UK revalidation may be a challenge for when, as always happens in GP in the UK, the things that cause us to moan, change for the better and you want to move back.

The future is in our hands. I was worried when my daughter, a graduate entry medical student, told me at a social event that a previous student friend of hers who was now an FY2 was going to give up medicine. I asked if I could speak to him. This did not seem appropriate at the time, but as he was leaving he came to say goodbye and I asked if he was the FY2 she had mentioned.

Be positive for future generations

We spoke and he said how reassuring it was to talk to someone at last who was both positive and enthusiastic about continuing to be a doctor and that he was now going to continue applying for specialty training. I was touched by this but anxious about the negative influences many GPs are having on the future workforce.

We must not lose sight of those top ten reasons for being a GP and it is our responsibility to ensure there is a future generation to take our place. As I said before, being a GP is still the best job in the world.

Read Dr Charlton's Top Ten Reasons to be an NHS GP

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