GPs-to-be back work for private firms

Exclusive - Shortage of partnerships forces dramatic change of heart for future GPs.

Dr Alex Smallwood
Dr Alex Smallwood

More than half of future GPs would work for practices run by private providers, a GP snapshot poll has found.

An even higher proportion said that they would accept a job in a polyclinic.

'It's not really why I wanted to become a GP,' one registrar interviewed at the BMA's 'GPs-to-Be' conference in London last month said. 'But in the current job climate I might have to.'

Dr Alex Smallwood, chairman of the BMA's GP trainees' sub-committee, said the figures were a 'bombshell'.

'The private sector will get highly skilled people at the taxpayer's expense,' he said. 'If health workers are coming through deciding that private practice isn't so bad, it could undermine the NHS.'

The survey of 33 respondents found that 52 per cent of future GPs would work for a privately run practice. Only 36 per cent would not. Around 58 per cent also said that they would work for a polyclinic, with only 30 per cent against doing so.

The results are a dramatic reversal of a survey conducted at the 2006 conference, where half of those surveyed said they would not work for private providers under any circumstance.

Most respondents said they would prefer to work in a traditional practice but they feared that job shortages would force them to explore other options.

Dr Smallwood said that so few jobs were available that he knew of at least one qualified GP who was driving a taxi to pay the bills.

He warned that, if things did not improve, general practice could go the way of dentistry.

Dr Beth McCarron-Nash, the youngest member of the GPC negotiating team, warned that practices' failure to provide opportunities for young GPs meant that APMS employers were becoming 'very enticing'.

'If you ask most doctors they fundamentally believe in list-based general practice and an NHS free at the point of access,' she said. 'But that doesn't marry up with the job opportunities.'

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