General practice doctors (a.k.a. general practitioners or GPs) are the charming medical professionals that people go to when they are first seeking medical advice and treatment.
Primarily, they work with the same group of patients who are registered with their practice and can find themselves dealing with a huge range of different ailments, injuries and illnesses.
Their responsibilities often include:
- Conducting regular patient check-ups
- Diagnosing any ailments
- Prescribing medication
- Providing advice to people on staying healthy
- Referring patients to specialists and consultants in hospital departments.
The key to understanding the GP’s remit is in the word ‘general’. The GP is the medical world’s jack of all trades. You will need a fantastically broad range of medical knowledge to succeed.
A general practitioner may also work alongside other medical institutions, such as clinics and drop-in centres, to assist in the care of patients outside of their own practice.
Salary & benefits
You can make a very good living as a GP. It’s likely that you’ll be earning between £35,000 and £40,000 whilst you complete your postgraduate training.
Once you become a full-on GP and are permanently employed by a specific surgery, you could be on approximately £50,000 to £75,000 per annum. As your career progresses and your practice grows, you can make upwards of £100,000 a year.
A general practitioner’s working life is likely to be a little bit less intense than that of a hospital doctor working in the accident and emergency or oncology departments.
They will normally open their practice on a daily basis and offer their medical expertise throughout the day, from early in the morning to the early evening.
Additionally, most GPs will make house calls and be required to provide medical treatment to people in their homes when they are physically unable to make it to the surgery.
From time to time, GPs may be required to work unsociable hours, as they may be working ‘on-call’. Therefore, it may be necessary for them to provide people with medical attention at any time throughout the night. However, this is only likely to be the case on one or two days a week.
First and foremost, you will be required to get a degree in medicine and an official license to practice. A medicine degree is usually a five-year course.
However, if you already have a degree in a different discipline you can do it in four years. Alternatively, if you opt to do a foundation year first, it will take you six years to complete.
To get onto a medicine degree course, you will need top A-level grades, the majority of which should be in science subjects, i.e. biology, chemistry, physics or maths.
Training & progression
The majority of your general medical training will be done as part of your degree. However, in order to become a GP, you will need to do two extra years of postgraduate foundation training.
Following this, you will have to undergo three more years of specialist general practice training. Once you have done all of this, you will finally be eligible to become a registered GP. Phew!
Once you are established in a surgery, you will effectively be at the top of the general practice ladder. However, staying up-to-date on the latest medical news and advancements in the industry is essential. You can’t get lazy! People’s lives will be in your hands and you will have to keep your skills sharp.
To grow in the industry, you need to have a proven track record of patient care, be able to work long hours and grow your own personal practice. It’s demanding work, but there’s definitely a financial incentive.
If you fancy a bit more flexibility in your career, you could look into becoming a locum. These guys don’t work for a specific surgery. Instead, they fill in for other GPs when they are absent. If you take this route, you will almost be like the supply teacher of the medical world.
You could also branch out from general practice medicine and begin to specialise in other areas. The medical world truly is your oyster!