Professor Clare Gerada: New business model changes GPs' role

The role of a GP in the UK is not what it used to be. The time when I spent most of my working week in my consulting room, caring for patients, is over.

I can't deny this makes me a little sad. Like most GPs, I went into general practice to care for patients and build a long-lasting relationship with them and their families. I still believe the precious GP/patient relationship is the cornerstone of the NHS and long may it remain so.

I am a partner in a large primary care organisation, I run a practitioner health programme and of course, I lead the RCGP. I believe in broadening my horizons, multitasking, developing and using new skills. But at the same time, I represent an entire membership of GPs of all ages and backgrounds, many of whom simply want to care.

General practice is changing and that involves a greater degree of flexibility. Research published in the British Journal of General Practice analyses how our roles have changed over the past 12 years.

Overall, 11 competency domains have been identified. Unsurprisingly, 10 of those deemed necessary to be a GP then and now are still aligned, but have become a lot broader.

Put simply, the tenets on which general practice is built are the same - but with many more responsibilities attached. The most significant change has been the addition of a new domain covering leadership, resource management and financial acumen - important skills, but not the main reasons why many people enter general practice.

The research acknowledges our job is transforming from a 'helping model' based on doctor/patient consultations, to a 'business model' where our work is having an impact on wider health systems.

Perceptions of the most important attributes for GPs continue to be communication skills, our ability to empathise with patients and our professional integrity, along with our clinical skills.

The study also highlights the balancing act GPs need to achieve in maintaining care, trust and professional integrity while managing resources. We are generalists and I know we will rise to any challenge, but we must ensure GPs do not become increasingly torn between the consulting room and the boardroom.

  • Professor Gerada is a GP in London.

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