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General practitioners provide confidential patient consultations and initial medical care within a community-based setting.

The job can be demanding but it is nevertheless rewarding and highly respected and it gives more opportunity for flexible or part-time work than other specialisms.

What does a GP do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

General practitioners (GPs) have knowledge of a broad range of illnesses, and diagnose and treat patients of all ages.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • patient consultations at home and within the surgery
  • physical examinations
  • diagnosis and treatment of illnesses/ailments
  • minor surgery
  • health education
  • practice management and administration
  • liaising with other healthcare professionals and/or hospitals

The job can be demanding but it is nevertheless rewarding and highly respected and it gives more opportunity for flexible or part-time work than other specialisms. Career advancement is possible via hospital work, research or teaching.

Typical employers of GPs

GPs are employed by the NHS as independent contractors to work within local communities.

Publications advertising vacancies include GP Online, British Medical Journal and Pulse. There are also job listings online via the NHS and the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Qualification and training required

It is only possible to qualify as a GP with a medical degree and further training.

Qualification as a GP is a lengthy process. First you will need to undertake a-five year medical degree which is approved by the General Medical Council. In order to do a medical degree you will usually need a minimum of three A levels, with grades at AAA or AAB, or equivalent, in chemistry and either biology, physics or maths, plus another academic subject.

The medical degree is followed by compulsory hospital and general practice-based vocational training through the two-year foundation programme. The final stage is speciality training for general practice, which takes a minimum of three years. Additionally, many doctors sit an examination or submit a portfolio to gain membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). Subsequent professional updating, such as attending lectures, conferences and meetings is also a key feature of the job.

Graduates from a non-medical background wishing to become a GP must follow the same route, but can take the shorter, more intensive graduate medical degree. Most universities ask for graduates to possess at least a 2.1 degree, preferably in a scientific subject. A graduate who doesn't match these criteria could take an 'Access to Medicine' course before applying. They must also have good academic references, be highly motivated and possess appropriate personal characteristics such as perseverance and energy.

Key skills for general practitioners

  • Ability to work long hours, often under pressure
  • Good practical skills
  • Communication skills, compassion and a good bedside manner
  • Ability to solve problems and effective decision-making skills
  • Drive to continue learning throughout career
  • Business management skills
  • Attention to detail

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