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Career Focus

I have recently passed my PLAB exams and I am interested in becoming a general practitioner. How can I get on to a training scheme, and what are my job prospects?

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 06 November 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:s186
  1. Bill Irish, course organiser and GP principal
  1. Bath


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The good news is that qualified general practitioners (GPs) are in great demand and you are likely to be welcomed with open arms in most parts of the United Kingdom. Accredited GPs can choose to work in a salaried post, as a locum, or as a partner in a practice.

A salaried post is an increasingly popular option with newly qualified doctors, providing a reasonable salary and employment rights such as sick pay, maternity pay, holidays, study leave, and NHS pension. Most of these posts are with individual practices, although an increasing number of primary care trusts directly employ GPs in this way. In either case, you can expect protected time for education and support, together with involvement in audit and personal development. Most salaried posts are advertised in BMJ Careers, although you may also hear of positions informally through your local postgraduate centre or local medical committee.

Recruitment to locum posts tends to be quite informal, and although well paid, there is little job security—for example, no arrangements for sick pay. However, locum GPs have recently been allowed to contribute to the NHS pension scheme. The usual method of finding work is to circulate a copy of your curriculum vitae to the practice managers of local practices.

Partners (also known as principals) co-own the general practice in which they work; often this also includes the buildings. They employ most of the staff working in the practice and usually take a leadership role. Remuneration is usually good, but there is necessarily a need to tie up some of your own capital in the practice. Again, there are numerous vacancies in the United Kingdom for GP principals, particularly in the less popular parts of the country. Because of the additional responsibilities, and the introduction of the new contract, it is becoming less usual for a GP to be appointed as a partner without considerable experience in a salaried position.

Without knowing your individual circumstances and experience it is difficult to give accurate advice on how you should set about training as a GP. Training for UK general practice is currently regulated by the Joint Committee on Postgraduate Training for General Practice (JCPTGP). You will get more practical advice from your local director of general practice education. In general, you must have at least two years' experience at senior house officer level in subjects relevant to practice, followed by a year as a GP registrar. The necessary posts are often combined into a vocational training scheme, entry to which is by competitive interview twice a year. For doctors who already have some experience, a number of deaneries have developed individual training programmes for GP training. I would suggest discussing your needs with an experienced GP educator as soon as possible.

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