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  • A woman is standing at a small sink in a doctor's surgery.  She is washing her hands.

    It is important to maintain good standards of hygiene between consultations.

  • A woman is sitting at a desk in a doctor's surgery.   She is speaking on the telephone and writing on a notepad.

    On the phone, talking to a patient.

  • A woman is removing a file from a shelf.

    Consulting notes.

  • A woman is sitting at a desk in a doctor's surgery.  She is using a computer.

    Using the internet for research.

  • A woman is standing in a doctor's surgery.  She is putting on some latex gloves.

    Sometimes, it is necessary to wear disposable gloves.

  • General Practitioner

General Practitioner

Introduction

General practitioners (GPs) are doctors who look after people's health in their local area. You are the first point of contact for most patients. Most of your work is carried out during consultations in the surgery and during home visits.

You will use your extensive knowledge of medical conditions so that you can assess a problem and decide on the appropriate course of action. You must know how and when to intervene, through treatment, prevention and education, to promote the health of your patients.

Also known as

  • Family Doctor
  • GP

Video: - Heena: General Practitioner

Work Activities

General Practitioners form an essential part of medical care throughout the world. As a GP you are the first point of contact for most patients. Most of the work is carried out during consultations in the surgery and during home visits.

GPs provide a large range of care within the local community.You'll attend patients in surgery and primary care emergency centres if needed, and also visit patients homes. You will need be aware of and take account of physical, psychological and social factors when looking after your patients.

You will use your extensive knowledge of medical conditions so that you can assess a problem and decide on the appropriate course of action. You must know how and when to intervene, through treatment, prevention and education, to promote the health of your patients.

The wide variety of work that you will experience in general practice is one of the major attractions. There can be a huge variation in the needs of individual patients during one single surgery! No other medical specialty offers such a range - you might be treating everything from pregnant women, to babies, and from mental illness to sports medicine.

You may develop special interests in diverse areas. General practice gives the opportunity to prevent illness and not just treat it.

Individual General Practitioners can reach a relatively high income early in their career and it is one of the medical specialties most suited to part time and flexible working.

Most GPs are self-employed, independent contractors to the NHS. This independence means that in most cases, you will be responsible for providing a suitable building from which to practise, and for employing your own staff.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become a General Practitioner, you will need:

  • the ability to care about patients and their relatives
  • a commitment to providing high quality care
  • awareness of your own limitations
  • the ability to seek help when appropriate
  • commitment to keeping up to date and improving quality of your own performance
  • appreciation of the value of team work
  • clinical competence (being good at dealing with medical situations)
  • to be organised

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Foundation year 1: £27,146
  • Foundation year 2: £31,422
  • Doctors starting training: £37,191 - £47,132
  • Specialist Doctors: £39,060 - £72,840
  • Consultants earn £77,913 - £105,042

Hours of work

GPs work around 50 hours a week. Hours are usually divided between morning and afternoon/evening surgery. Some GPs choose to have out-of-hours duties.

Where could I work?

Opportunities for GPs occur in towns, cities and rural areas throughout the UK.

A small number of GPs work in the armed forces. There might be opportunities in other countries, especially in Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia. Some GPs work with voluntary organisations in other countries.

Self-employment

Most GPs are self-employed.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised on the NHS Jobs website, in professional journals, and on specialist and general job boards.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

So, how do you become a GP?

In order to become a GP, you first train to become a Doctor, and then choose to specialise in your final stage of training.

Firstly, you'll need to demonstrate your motivation, and show that you have a realistic understanding of what this role involves. Work experience, such as shadowing Doctors and other healthcare staff, or maybe working in a care environment (such as a care home) is essential for entry to medical school.

It can seem very complicated, but basically there are three main stages which have to be completed in order to qualify as a GP:

  • stage 1 medical school degree course
  • stage 2 foundation programme
  • stage 3 specialty, GP and run-through training

More details can be found in our information article, 'Medical School Applications'.

A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article 'Internships', for more details.

Here are the three stages in more detail:

Stage 1: Undergraduate Medical School

This involves a period of study at medical school (attached to a university) including work experience placements in a hospital and community setting.

The different types of medical degree course include:

  • standard five-year degree course
  • courses which include a pre-medical year, for candidates with non-science A levels (or equivalent)
  • accelerated courses for graduates (four years in length)

What qualifications do you need to get into Medical School?

The majority of medical schools require A levels in chemistry, whilst others will accept AS level in chemistry, depending upon the other qualifications being offered. Some require biology at A level.

Candidates without science A Levels

For candidates without science subjects to offer at A level (or equivalent), it is possible to undertake an additional pre-medical year at some universities. The pre-medical year is a preliminary course in chemistry, physics and biology and lasts normally 30 weeks.

Candidates without A levels

A small number of access courses are offered which can lead onto a medical degree. The acceptability of access courses varies between medical schools and so it is essential that you check this prior to starting on an access course.

Candidates without A levels but with considerable life experience may still need to hold academic qualifications and will need to produce evidence of their ability to cope with the demands of the course for which they are applying.

Candidates with a degree

Medical schools increasingly welcome applications from graduates. Graduate candidates normally need a first or upper second class honours degree. Some medical schools require the degree to be in a science-related subject, whilst others do not, so make sure you check with your intended medical school.

What will medical schools will be looking for in candidates?

Entry into a medical school is tough! You will be called for an interview and will face searching questions about your motivation, your work at school, hobbies and personal interests, as well as having to produce evidence of your academic achievements.

A key question will be your reasons for wanting to become a Doctor. You should also be able to demonstrate relevant paid or voluntary work experience e.g. work as a hospital auxiliary, in nursing or residential care.

Students can find the addresses of local hospitals and residential homes on-line, or in the telephone book. How about getting in contact with them and arranging some work experience?

Stage 2: Foundation programme

This is a two-year programme which all UK medical graduates must undertake before moving on to further training. You must have first completed stage 1 undergraduate medical school training before starting on the two-year foundation programme.

You will be known as a Foundation Doctor while on the training programme.

Stage 3: Speciality, GP and run-through training

This is when you get to train and specialise in general practice. Once this is completed, you can call yourself a GP!

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

This career is an exception to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to.

This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.

Qualifications

The majority of medical schools require A levels in chemistry, whilst others will accept AS level in chemistry, depending upon the other qualifications being offered. Some require biology at A level.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.

Adult Opportunities

Individual General Practitioners can reach a relatively high income early in their career and it is one of the medical specialties most suited to part time and flexible working.

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Courses

If you don't have the usual academic qualifications needed for a degree in medicine, you might be able to enter the course through:

Medical schools increasingly welcome applications from graduates. Graduate candidates normally need a first or upper second class honours degree. Some medical schools require the degree to be in a science-related subject, whilst others do not, so make sure you check with your intended medical school.

There are also shortened or fast-track medical degrees, usually lasting four years, for graduates. You would usually need a relevant first degree, for example, in a science subject, although some universities accept graduates in any subject.

Training

You can train in GP specialty (once qualified as a doctor) on a part-time basis. This can be through the NHS 'Less Than Full-time Training Programme', through which students cover 50-80% of the normal full-time weekly programme.

Other options for part-time training are 'job-sharing' and 'permanent part-time'.

Funding

Students on university courses in medicine (recognised by the General Medical Council) may be eligible for financial help from the NHS as part of their course.

If you are accepted onto approved courses, you might be eligible to receive financial support from the NHS. The timing of when this is provided depends on the type of course you are doing.

1) Funding for undergraduate students on standard five-year courses

Gaining admission to the standard five-year courses means you are entitled to receive student loans from Student Finance England for maintenance and tuition fees in the first four years.

From year five onwards, tuition fees will be paid by the NHS Student Bursary Scheme and you will be eligible to apply for a means-tested NHS bursary to cover maintenance costs and a reduced maintenance loan from Student Finance England.

Students also have access to a non-means tested grant of £1,000 as part of their NHS Bursary award.

These funding arrangements will continue to apply if you are starting your studies in academic years 2014/15 and 2015/16 (universities can charge up to a maximum of £9,000 in tuition fees in 2014/15 and 2015/2016).

However, the arrangements for graduate medical students on a five year course are different. In the first four years of the course, you would not be eligible to receive a loan for tuition fees or a maintenance grant regardless of whether or not you have previously received funding. However, you may be able to apply for a full, income based, maintenance loan from Student Finance England.

From year five of the training, graduate medical students receive the same support as undergraduate medical students (see above).

2) Funding for graduates on accelerated courses

Currently, you will have to fund the first £3,465 of your tuition fees in the first year. In the subsequent years of your course, the NHS Bursary scheme will pay £3,465 towards your tuition fees. Throughout the course, eligible students will be able to receive a Student Loan Company loan to cover the difference between £3,465 and the tuition charges of their universities, to a maximum charge of £9,000.

Further Information

Professional institutions

Professional institutions have the following roles:

  • To support their members.
  • To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.

For more information on the institution(s) relevant to this career, check out the contacts below.

NHS Wales Careers

Publisher: National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare

Email: abm.wedsteam@wales.nhs.uk

Website: www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/829/page/36090

NHS Jobs

Website: www.jobs.nhs.uk

Step into the NHS

NHS careers

Tel: 0345 6060655

Website: www.stepintothenhs.nhs.uk

Skills for Health

Skills for the health sector

Address: Goldsmiths House, Broad Plain, Bristol BS2 0JP

Tel: 0117 9221155

Email: office@skillsforhealth.org.uk

Website: www.skillsforhealth.org.uk

NHS Education for Scotland (NES)

Scottish enquiries

Address: Westport 102, West Port, Edinburgh EH3 9DN

Tel: 0131 6563200

Email: enquiries@nes.scot.nhs.uk

Website: www.nes.scot.nhs.uk

Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency (NIMDTA)

Northern Ireland Enquiries

Address: Beechill House, 42 Beechill Road, Belfast BT8 7RL

Tel: 028 9040 0000

Email: nimdta@nimdta.gov.uk

Website: www.nimdta.gov.uk

UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT)

Tel: 0161 8557409

Email: ukcatcustomerservices@pearson.com

Website: www.ukcat.ac.uk

Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT)

Tel: 020 3829 5924

Email: unitedkingdom@acer.org

Website: www.gamsatuk.org

British Medical Association (BMA)

Address: BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JP

Tel: 020 7387 4499

Website: bma.org.uk

Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP)

Address: 30 Euston Square, London NW1 2FB

Tel: 020 3188 7400

Website: www.rcgp.org.uk

BMJ Careers

Address: BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JP

Tel: 020 7387 4410

Email: bmjcareershelp@bmj.com

Website: www.bmjcareers.com

National Recruitment Office for GP Training (NRO)

Address: Regus Business Centre, Central Boulevard, Blythe Valley Business Park, Solihull, West Midlands B90 8AG

Tel: 01564 711177

Email: help@gprecruitment.org.uk

Website: www.gprecruitment.org.uk

British Medical Association (BMA) Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Enquiries

Address: 16 Cromac Place, Cromac Wood, Ormeau Road, Belfast BT7 2JB

Tel: 028 9026 9666

Email: BMANorthernIreland@bma.org.uk

Website: bma.org.uk

Money 4 MedStudents

Address: 24 King's Road, Wimbledon, London SW19 8QN

Tel: 020 8545 8443

Email: jkubale@rmbf.org

Website: www.money4medstudents.org

British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland

Scottish enquiries

Address: 14 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1LL

Tel: 0131 2473000

Email: BMAScotland@bma.org.uk

Website: bma.org.uk

General Medical Council (GMC)

Address: 3 Hardman Street, Manchester M3 3AW

Tel: 0161 9236602

Email: gmc@gmc-uk.org

Website: www.gmc-uk.org

General Medical Council (GMC Scotland)

Scottish enquiries

Address: 5th Floor, The Tun, 4 Jackson's Entry, Edinburgh EH8 8PJ

Tel: 0131 5258700

Email: gmcscotland@gmc-uk.org

Website: www.gmc-uk.org

Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Scotland

Scottish enquiries

Address: 25 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JX

Tel: 0131 2606800

Email: info@rcgp-scotland.org.uk

Website: www.rcgp.org.uk

British Medical Journal (BMJ)

Website: www.bmj.com

Getting into Medical School 2014 Entry

Author: Simon Horner Publisher: Trotman

The Essential Guide to Becoming a Doctor

Authors: Adrian Blundell, Richard Harrison, Benjamin W. Turney Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Scottish Medical Training (SMT)

Scottish enquiries

Email: enquiries@scotmt.org.uk

Website: www.scotmt.scot.nhs.uk

British Medical Association (BMA) Wales

Welsh enquiries

Address: 5th Floor, 2 Caspian Point, Caspian Way, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff CF10 4DQ

Tel: 029 2047 4646

Email: BMAWales@bma.org.uk

Website: bma.org.uk

People Exchange Cymru (PEC)

Public sector recruitment portal for Wales

Email: peopleexchangecymru@gov.wales

Website: www.peopleexchangecymru.org.uk/home

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