NHS Careers > Explore by career > Doctors > Careers in medicine > General practice

General practice

General practice

General practitioners (GPs) work in primary care and are part of a clinical commissioning group (CCG) which have responsibility for purchasing healthcare from secondary healthcare providers, such as acute/hospital and community/mental health trusts and the independent and voluntary sector.

Changes to the healthcare system in England means that the NHS will need more GPs in the future and the number of training places is increasing. It is anticipated that up to 50% of all specialty training places in the future will be in general practice.

General practice

General practice is an essential part of medical care throughout the world. GPs are also the first point of contact for most patients. The majority of the work is carried out during consultations in the surgery and during home visits.

GPs provide a complete spectrum of care within the local community: dealing with problems that often combine physical, psychological and social components. They increasingly work in teams with other professions, helping patients to take responsibility for their own health.

They attend patients in surgery and primary care emergency centres if clinically necessary, visit their homes and will be aware of and take account of physical, psychological and social factors in looking after their patients.

GPs call on an extensive knowledge of medical conditions to be able to assess a problem and decide on the appropriate course of action. They know how and when to intervene, through treatment, prevention and education, to promote the health of their patients and families.

The wide mix of general practice is one of the major attractions. There can be huge variation in the needs of individual patients during a single surgery. No other specialty offers such a wide remit of treating everything from pregnant women to babies and from mental illness to sports medicine. Individual doctors may develop special interests in diverse areas. General practice gives the opportunity to prevent illness and not just treat it.

There are opportunities to become involved in hospital work, in education of those training to be general practitioners or in local issues e.g. local medical committees or clinical commissioning groups. GPs can reach a relatively high income early in their career and it is one of the specialties most suited to part time and flexible working.

Most GPs are independent contractors to the NHS. This independence means that in most cases, they are responsible for providing adequate premises from which to practise and for employing their own staff.

Personal qualities should include:

  • ability to care about patients and their relatives
  • a commitment to providing high quality care
  • awareness of ones own limitations
  • ability to seek help when appropriate
  • commitment to keeping up to date and improving quality of ones own performance
  • appreciation of the value of team work
  • clinical competence
  • organisational ability

Further information

Further information on becoming a GP from the Royal College of General Practitioners.

More information ob being a GP on the Medical Careers website