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If you are interested in science and medicine, and want to help people, this career could be ideal for you. GPs provide medical care for patients in the community. They diagnose and treat illness, disease and infection.

To become a GP, you will need to complete a degree in medicine. Then you will need to pass a two-year foundation programme of general training. You will also need specialist training in general practice.

A GP needs to have compassion and a sense of responsibility. They need to put people at ease, and gain their trust and confidence. They also need to work under pressure and make quick decisions.

The work

As a GP, you would see patients in your surgery or visit them at home. You would examine the patient, assess their situation and decide what action to take. You work could include:

  • making a diagnosis
  • giving general advice
  • prescribing medicine
  • recommending treatment
  • carrying out minor surgery
  • referring the patient to a specialist consultant for tests and further diagnosis.

You would also be involved in running the practice (alone or in partnership with other GPs), and would carry out other tasks such as:

  • arranging support from other health professionals, such as physiotherapists and nurses
  • administration, like writing letters and reports, and keeping patient records
  • organising clinics and health education for patient groups, like pregnant women, smokers and people with diabetes
  • taking further training to develop skills in specialist areas such as minor surgery or mental health.

You would often work in a team that includes practice nurses, health visitors, midwives, counsellors and administrative support staff.


Hours

You would work up to 52 hours a week as a full-time GP, which can include evenings and weekends. You may also be on a rota for out-of-hours emergency work. Part-time hours may also be available.

You may spend some time making home visits, and if you work in a rural practice you may have to travel long distances.


Income

Doctors on the Foundation Programme can earn between £33,300 and £41,300 a year. Doctors doing vocational general practitioner training can earn between £44,100 and £69,400 a year. (See the Training and Development section below for details of the Foundation Programme and vocational training).

Full-time GP salaries can be between £53,250 and £80,350 a year, and independent GPs (self-employed with NHS contracts) may earn between around £80,000 and £120,000 a year.

Salaries for doctors in training include an additional amount based on the average hours of overtime worked, time spent covering unsocial hours, and workload.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.


Entry requirements

To become a GP, you will need to complete:

  • a degree in medicine, recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC)
  • a two-year foundation programme of general training (see Training and Development section below for details)
  • specialist training in general practice (see Training and Development section below for details).

To do a five-year degree course in medicine you will usually need at least five GCSEs (A-C) including English, maths and science, plus three A levels at grades AAB in subjects such as chemistry, biology and either physics or maths. Check the GMC website for a list of recognised degree courses.

Training and development

Once you have a degree in medicine, you will need to complete two further stages of vocational training to qualify as a GP. These are a two-year foundation programme and specialist training in general practice.

Two-year foundation programme: Application is through The Foundation Programme website. You will be known as a Foundation House Officer and will work in clinical settings ranging from acute care to mental health. At the end of the first year you can achieve full registration with the General Medical Council (GMC). By the end of the second year you would choose to train in general practice.

Specialist training in general practice: Application is through the National Recruitment Office for General Practice Training. This stage takes around three years to complete and includes at least 12 months working as a GP registrar in the NHS. You may also work in areas such as paediatrics, psychiatry and geriatrics.

You will be assessed throughout your training and you will need to meet the requirements for membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).

You can then be awarded the Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT), which makes you eligible to join the GMC GP Register and apply for a licence to practise as a doctor.

The RCGP website has information on all aspects of GP training, professional membership and exams.

In order to continue practising (having your licence revalidated), you will need to keep your skills and knowledge up to date throughout your career, and show evidence each year of your ongoing education and learning. This could include developing your expertise in an area of interest, such as dermatology, urology, sexual health or mental health. For more information on licensing and revalidation, check the GMC website.


Skills and knowledge

To become a GP, you will need to have:

  • a genuine desire to help people
  • excellent communication and listening skills
  • a keen interest in science and medicine
  • the ability to keep up to date with developments in patient care
  • compassion, integrity and a sense of responsibility
  • the ability to put people at ease, and gain their trust and confidence
  • practical skills for examining patients and performing clinical procedures
  • the ability to work under pressure and make quick decisions
  • the ability to work consistently to high professional standards
  • leadership skills
  • the ability to train, teach and supervise staff.

Opportunities

It is estimated that there are around 35,000 GPs in England working for the NHS, either independently or in partnership with a local Primary Care Trust. The armed forces also employ a small number of GPs.

Reports show that there are GP shortages in certain regions of the country, especially in deprived, urban areas. The government is offering a range of financial incentives (such as the Primary Care Development Scheme) to help understaffed GP practices attract new GPs.

As a GP you could take on work outside the practice, for example occupational health duties at a workplace or running hospital sessions. You may also find opportunities for advisory work, for example with pharmaceutical companies, the Benefits Agency, police and prison services.

Related industry information

Industry summary

The health sector is represented by Skills for Health Sector Skills Council, which comprises three sub‐sectors:

  • National Health Service (NHS)
  • Independent Healthcare Sector (such as private and charitable healthcare providers)
  • Third Sector (healthcare) (such as small local community and voluntary groups, registered charities, foundations, trusts, social enterprises and co‐operatives)

The health sector is made up of hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, dental practices, the ambulance service, nursing homes, residential care homes, complementary medicine and a huge range of other health related activities, from sight tests in opticians to research in medical laboratories. Most people in the health sector work in the publicly funded National Health Service (NHS), which includes:

  • primary care (organisations which the public goes to first) – Doctors/General Practitioners (GPs), NHS Walk in Centres, NHS Direct, Out of Hours Emergency Care
  • secondary care (organisations which the public are referred onto) – Ambulance Trusts, NHS Trusts/hospitals, NHS Foundation Trusts/hospitals, Mental Health Trusts, Care Trusts (provide joint health and social care activities)

NHS policy in England is directed from the centre by the Department of Health. Local organisations, known as Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), are in charge of providing and commissioning services, controlling the majority of the budget. PCTs are overseen by 10 regional organisations called Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs).

The independent sector includes companies and charities that offer hospital and specialist services usually after referral from a doctor. Operations and other work are carried out in private hospitals, independent treatment centres, mental health units and hospices.

Key facts:

  • The health sector is the largest employer in the UK, representing 5.5% of the working age population of the UK and 7.3% of the working age population that are currently in employment.
  • It is estimated that the sector employs over 2 million people, including:
    • over 1.5 million people in the NHS (72%)
    • over 0.5 million people in the Independent Healthcare sector (26%)
    • almost 40,000 in the voluntary sector (2%)
  • 56% of the workforce has a higher education qualification (or equivalent).
  • The age profile for the sector shows an older than average workforce, which is due in part to the fact that it takes some professions a long time to train and can mean that people enter the sector later.

There is a varied list of jobs in the sector ranging from a diverse number of clinical roles, to support and infrastructure staff, for instance: Allied Health Professionals (AHPs); Ambulance Staff; Dental Staff; Doctors/Medical staff; Nursing staff; Midwifery Staff; Healthcare Scientists; Health Informatics Staff; Management; Wider Healthcare Team; Complementary Therapists.


National and regional data

High proportions of the health sector workforce are located in:

  • London
  • South East
  • North West

East Midlands

  • The health sector employs 131,515 people, which accounts for 7% of all employment in the region.
  • The East Midlands employs 8% of the total health sector workforce for England.
  • The private sector accounts for 29% of all employment across the sector or 41,200 employees.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, the total requirement for workforce will be approximately 133,000 people. This is the total of the predicted expansion plus replacement demand.

East of England

  • The health sector employs 164,720 people, which accounts for 7% of all employment in the region.
  • The East of England employs 9.8 % of the total health sector workforce for England.
  • The private sector accounts for 30% of all employment across the sector or 52,300 employees.
  • Vacancies in the health and social work sector account for 14% of all industry vacancies.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, the total requirement for workforce will be approximately 103,000 people. This is the total of the predicted expansion plus replacement demand.

London

  • The health sector employs over 249,524 people, which accounts for 6% of all the employment in the region.
  • London employs 15% of the total health sector workforce for England.
  • The private sector accounts for 33% of all employment across the sector or 78,500 employees.
  • Vacancies in health and social work account for 12% of all industry vacancies.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, the total requirement for workforce will be approximately 146,000 people. This is the total of the predicted expansion plus replacement demand.

North East

  • The health sector employs 89,201 people, which accounts for 8.7% of all employment in the region.
  • The North East employs 5.3 % of the total health sector workforce for England.
  • The private sector accounts for 25% of all employment across the sector or 23,800 employees.
  • Vacancies in the health and social work sector account for 12% of all industry vacancies.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, the total requirement for workforce will be almost 46,000 people. This is the total of the predicted expansion plus replacement demand.

North West

  • The health sector employs 251,960 people, which accounts for 8% of all employment in the region.
  • The North West employs 15% of the total health sector workforce for England.
  • The private sector accounts for 23.5% of all employment across the sector or 59,200 employees.
  • Vacancies in the health and social work account for 11% of all industry vacancies.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, the total requirement for workforce will be approximately 133,000 people. This is the total of the predicted expansion plus replacement demand.

South East

  • The health sector employs 264,071 people, which accounts for 7.1% of all employment in the region.
  • The South East employs 15.7% of the total health sector workforce for England.
  • The private sector accounts for 23.5% of all employment across the sector or 59,200 employees.
  • Vacancies in the health and social work sector account for 12% of all Industry vacancies.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, the total requirement for workforce will be approximately 164,000 people. This is the total of the predicted expansion plus replacement demand.

South West

  • The health sector employs 182,187 people, which accounts for 8.2% of all employment in the region.
  • The South West employs 10.8 % of the total health sector workforce for England.
  • The private sector accounts for 30% of all employment across the sector or 60,700 employees.
  • Vacancies in the health and social work sector account for 12% of all Industry vacancies.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, the total requirement for workforce will be approximately 105,000 people. This is the total of the predicted expansion plus replacement demand.

West Midlands

  • The health sector employs 168,746 people, which accounts for 7.2% of all employment in the region.
  • The West Midlands employs 10% of the total health sector workforce for England.
  • The private sector accounts for 25% of all employment across the sector or 43,000 employees.
  • Vacancies in the health and social work sector account for 9% of all industry vacancies.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, the total requirement for workforce will be approximately 108,000 people. This is the total of the predicted expansion plus replacement demand.

Yorkshire and the Humber

  • The health sector employs 182,848 people, which accounts for 8.2% of all employment in the region.
  • Yorkshire and the Humber employ 10.9 % of the total health sector workforce for England.
  • The private sector accounts for 24% of the total health care workforce or 42,000 employees.
  • Vacancies in health and social work account for 11% of all industry vacancies.
  • Between 2007 and 2017, the total requirement for workforce will be approximately 97,000 people. This is the total of the predicted expansion plus replacement demand.

Northern Ireland

  • The health sector employs 61,300 people.
  • Northern Ireland employs 3% of the total health sector workforce.
  • 81% of the workforce is female.
  • 26% of the workforce is aged 35‐44 years.
  • 96% of the workforce is white.
  • 10% of the workforce reports a disability.
  • 48% of the workforce is in Associate Professional and Technical occupations.
  • 23% of organisations in the health and social work sector report vacancies.

Scotland

  • The health sector employs 201,500 people.
  • Scotland employs 10% of the total health sector workforce.
  • 78% of the workforce is female.
  • 30% of the workforce is aged 45‐54 years.
  • 95% of the workforce is white.
  • 14% of the workforce reports a disability.
  • 39% of the workforce is in Associate Professional and Technical occupations.
  • 23% of organisations in the health and social work sector report vacancies.

Wales

  • The health sector employs 114,900 people.
  • Wales employs 6% of the total health sector workforce.
  • 74% of the workforce is female.
  • 34% of the workforce is aged 45‐54 years.
  • 94% of the workforce is white.
  • 18% of the workforce reports a disability.
  • 40% of the workforce is in Associate Professional and Technical occupations.
  • 27% of organisations in the health and social work sector report vacancies.

 

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