In the past, most GPs wanted to become partners often straight after qualifying. However, in recent years newly-qualified GPs are much more likely to apply for salaried posts or become locums and becoming a partner is often not part of their career plan.
There is no doubt that different careers suit different individuals, but many myths and misconceptions have built up around being a GP partner and these need to be dispelled if we are to reverse the trend of GPs and GP trainees being sceptical about taking on partnership roles.
I believe that there are still many advantages of a partnership within general practice. I personally became a GP partner as soon as I completed my training for a few reasons. I have a young family and so for me it offers stability of work. I know where I am going every morning and know I can mould my work around my family life and have a voice within the practice.
The following are just some of the reasons why I think becoming a partner is a great career choice for GPs.
Opportunities to influence
Despite the changing landscape of the NHS, general practice continues to form the foundation that looks after the local population. This not only means a stable career choice, but GP partners are in the unique position to be able to adapt and implement changes within their service provision. As an independent practitioner, but also with the accountability for the running of the practice, partners can really advocate on behalf of their patients.
The development of cluster networks in Wales and primary care networks in England offers a real opportunity to develop services and improve patient care, through sharing best practice and working with other practices and providers – and GP partners will be key to this.
These networks will lead on how the general practice model develops and gains investment in the future and partners are likely to be the driving force through this exciting transition. These new ways of working also potentially offer new leadership opportunities for GPs.
Relationships with patients
Anecdotally, patients can be more drawn towards partners because they know that they’ll usually have a long-term commitment to the practice and this can offer a tremendous opportunity to get to know whole families within the community. This is often understated, but it is a major privilege of being a GP – and often a key reason why doctors chose to work in general practice.
The way we work is changing and continuity of care can be harder to achieve, but it is often partners who have these ongoing relationships with patients and their families. I really enjoy getting to know my patients and I think some of them certainly value being taken care of by a partner who they know will continue to be there for the long term.
General practice lies within the heart of its local community and patients value the contribution they make – there is a sense of responsibility that comes with the job and this is highly satisfying.
Running a business
Another advantage of becoming a GP partner is sharing within the profits of the business. As long as the business is run well, general practice will often offer a profitable margin and there is usually scope to increase growth as income is generated through numerous sources. Monitoring how changes impact outcome is important.
GP partners also have the opportunity to contribute to how the business is run. This allows autonomy, including setting up flexibility within the working day or week and means you have direct influence over the environment in which you work. You can form very supportive and close relationships within the team. It also drives an inherent incentive to succeed and make beneficial changes.
For me, being a partner is like having a work ‘family’. I know my partners very well and have good relationships with staff members. It is a great team and we enjoy socialising as well as working together.
As a GP partner, you automatically have a portfolio career with clinical, management, financial and employer responsibilities.
Working in a partnership offers a great opportunity to learn from multiple avenues. It is more likely that after admitting a patient to hospital, they will come back to see you and there will be an opportunity for finding out what happened.
All GPs will order serology and radiology tests and refer to secondary care, but it is more likely that this will be followed up individually by a GP partner. Correspondence letters are more likely to be read by GP partners and these are great ways of learning from consultant experience.
Partners can be responsible for educating medical students, arranging education sessions within the practice and training GP trainees. As well as reinforcing individual knowledge and being very fulfilling, education and training can help with succession planning and often GPs will stay at the practice they trained in. This in itself can be a rewarding experience.
Other opportunities, like leading on certain clinical areas, doing private medical reports and even taking on roles outside of the practice are often more likely to be undertaken by partners.
There is no doubt that there are benefits to being a GP partner and I’ve certainly capitalised on these. When colleagues were looking for locum work or salaried positions, I went straight into a partnership and, after a few years, I can say that I’ve never looked back. In fact I am looking forward to years of service to my local community and working alongside my second family.
- Dr Kotecha is a GP in Gwent, South Wales