Partnership review 'must prioritise work/life balance' to attract new GPs

The government's independent review of the partnership model should ensure there is increased flexibility for partners if the role is to appeal to the next generation of GPs, a leading GP trainee has said.

RCGP associates in training committee chair Dr Sophie Lanaghan
RCGP associates in training committee chair Dr Sophie Lanaghan

Speaking to GPonline, Dr Sophie Lanaghan, chair of the RCGP's associates in training committee said that many GP trainees ‘fail to see the benefits of being a partner in the current climate’.

‘The momentum, especially amongst trainees, seems to be towards ever greater flexibility and portfolio careers. Considering how this demand can be accommodated within the current partnership model I feel will be key,’ she said.

‘In addition, real-terms income for partners has dropped considerably since the early 2000s while work pressures and patient numbers have increased - these factors can’t be ignored as facets of making partnership less attractive. The funding of general practice, and by default GP partners, needs to be considered as part of the partnership review.

‘If we improve things for partners in terms of work/life balance, work pressures and finances I’d expect partnership would become more appealing’.

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The government's independent review, which is being led by Wessex LMCs chief executive Dr Nigel Watson, is aiming to 'reinvigorate' the GP parthenership model by proposing focused, affordable and practical recommendations (see box below). An interim report is due to be published in the autumn and a final report at the end of 2018.

The review faces a steep challenge. Last year, official data showed that general practice lost almost 2,000 partners between September 2015 and September 2017.

Partnership review

In a blog published on GPonline earlier this month reflecting on the first month of the review, Dr Watson acknowledged that making partnerships more appealing to younger GPs was a key consideration.

'Contrary to popular myth, many younger GPs would consider joining a practice as a partner, but not immediately after completion of training,' he wrote. 'They would like to gain more experience in working in different practices and be able to develop wider interests that would be valuable in their future careers, for example, in leadership, or clinical areas.

'Many are also looking for greater flexibility – including GPs wanting to develop portfolio careers, and also GPs with young families. [But] how can we expect the younger generation to commit to a partnership for the medium to long term if the majority of messages they get are negative and full of uncertainty?.'

Dr Watson added: 'Our challenge is to make general practice a better place to work, to ensure the working day is manageable with a sufficient workforce to meet the demand, to reduce the personal risk and liability, to introduce greater flexibility for those who want it and to create a positive future for general practice if we are to reinvigorate the partnership model.'

Dr Lanaghan also suggested that there should be increased focus on the ‘business’ side of general practice within speciality training.

‘Many newly-qualified GPs don’t feel equipped by training to take on partnership on qualification, and all it entails, whilst at the same time developing clinically and ensuring time and resource for aspects of their personal lives. I feel some of this could be addressed by better equipping us for this aspect of GP work in training.’

‘Anything, review or otherwise, which may go some way to improving things for partners - and partners of the future - is broadly welcomed,’ she said.

The partnership review
The government's independent GP partnership model review will focus on and produce recommendations in three key areas:
  • challenges currently facing partnerships within the context of general practice and the wider NHS, and how the current model of service delivery meets or exacerbates these.
  • benefits and shortcomings of the partnership model for patients, partners, salaried GPs, locum GPs, broader practice staff, for example practice nurses, and the wider NHS.
  • how best to reinvigorate the partnership model to equip it to help the transformation of general practice, benefiting patients and staff including GPs.
Read the review's 23 'key lines of enquiry'

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