Dr Chris Mimnagh: Flexible working could help retain GPs and benefit practices

A part-time GP, Dr Chris Mimnagh now works more in the winter and less in the summer to help his practice meet patient demand. Flexible solutions like this could help keep more GPs in the profession, he argues.

Here’s my confession. I’m a part time GP in a practice not afraid to experiment with care delivery.

We operate an access system that means we flex with the demand of the population. It works out at the equivalent of 2.5 GPs difference between the winter and the summer. It happens every year. It’s almost seasonal.

Last October we started an experiment. I moved to work full time in the dark days of the winter. I’d not been full time for nearly 17 years. It was hard.

I had a poster on the wall ticking off days like a convict, but the days counted were my additional leave, the photo of a French chateau my motivation.

The reward for this effort to the practice was immediate, extra me, less locum, so my colleagues benefitted. The reward for me was delayed, but every extra month I was full-time meant I could take a week’s leave outside term time.

We’ll review the experiment in October and collectively take the decision whether to proceed again, maybe it won’t be me but another part-time colleague who takes the offer.

So I’m half way through my extra leave, looking forward to summer, then the late summer week's leave before bedding into winter working again.

Now I know that some folks will have already clicked on to the next page on the basis that ‘it could never work for me’ or even worse ‘that’s never going to work’.

But if you are still reading this then imagine yourself in a similar role, working hard but with extra time. Extra time to do something you like or nothing you don’t, extra time to recharge your brain, slim down your body, visit places to learn.

To be fair it doesn’t really matter what you do, but without that vision of sustainable practice, that illusion of control, you are likely to be looking for the exit door along with 40% of GPs.

  • Dr Chris Mimnagh is a GP in Liverpool and head of clinical innovation liaison and deployment at The Innovation Agency, the academic health science network for the north-west coast.

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