GP careers: Why I am switching to a remote GP role

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the way practices work. Dr Patrice Baptiste explains how this has helped shape her current career plans.

Dr Patrice Baptiste
Dr Patrice Baptiste

I recently resigned from my job as a salaried GP. It was a hard decision but one I needed to make. I thought long and hard about it; I enjoyed working in my role and a part of me will miss it

However, with a change in personal circumstances and the impact of the pandemic I felt that leaving for a role as a 'remote' GP was the best thing for me to do.

Why did I leave?

Before I qualified as a GP, I was unexpectedly offered a job as a salaried GP. Lots of people advised me that I should ‘look around’ first before settling into a post. 

But I was looking for a salaried role and after speaking to the GP partner, having a look around the practice and speaking to some of the staff I accepted the job because it felt like a good fit. I also locumed regularly at another practice albeit for a short time.

Some of the main reasons I joined were the ongoing support as a newly-qualified GP, the chance to get to know the local community and patients well, the opportunities to see the practice develop and also to contribute to that development.

I worked 2.5 sessions which allowed me to continue my other interests, something that I had really struggled to do working full time as a trainee and which I felt was important for me in my GP career.

However, with a change in personal circumstances I needed more flexibility. I began working from home more which suited me. The rigid 2.5 days out of the week were also becoming more difficult for me to commit to.

The impact of COVID

Of course, when I began working at the practice COVID-19 was not a factor to consider. The pandemic has added a completely new dimension to working as a GP.

We now spend less time with patients face-to-face, which used to really help with building a rapport. Even though you can build a rapport, wearing a face mask, for me, can be a barrier. There is the obvious risk of COVID-19 in itself.

The practice I worked at was very accommodating, but over time I realised that I needed another role altogether. I realised that working as a remote GP was a good option for me given my current circumstances.

What will I do now?

So, I will now be working as a remote GP for a larger NHS practice – as a locum initially. I still feel very strongly that I would like to work as a salaried GP so that I have that continuity with a practice and its patients and I aim to secure another role at some point in the future, but I am not sure exactly when.

As mentioned above, I started work in a salaried post as soon as I qualified. Perhaps I should have locumed for a while after qualifying or taken a longer break? But I do know that what worked for me a few years ago does not work for me now and therefore I needed to adjust and make a change.

Like most, I do not feel comfortable with uncertainty, but for now I am enjoying a short break away from clinical practice before I begin locuming.

Should more practices consider remote working?

Would I have stayed at my previous practice if I had the opportunity to undertake a fully remote role? Perhaps I would have. Would I have stayed if the role allowed for more flexibility? Probably, yes.

General practice has changed in so many ways since the pandemic began. GPs have had to embrace more digital and remote forms of working such as telephone and video consultations. While this has drawbacks there are also many positives and I believe remote working is here to stay.

I also believe that practices should seriously consider creating more remote roles – for both salaried and locum GPs. I think these sorts of employment opportunities would help practices to retain staff, and also help with recruitment. There are many GPs who would welcome the opportunity to work in such roles, for many different reasons.

The future is definitely uncertain and no one knows exactly what 'normal' general practice will look like after the pandemic ends. But we should learn to adapt to – and embrace – some of the change that could be possible.

  • Dr Patrice Baptiste is a GP in London. She has a YouTube channel aimed at supporting doctors and aspiring doctors during their careers.

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