General practitioners (GPs) work in primary care. They are usually commissioned by primary care organisations, such as primary care trusts or clinical commissioning groups to deliver services.
As part of these primary care organisations, GPs can advise relevant health organisations on the purchasing of healthcare. They are also increasingly responsible 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. Therefore, 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 is an essential part of medical care throughout the world. GPs are also the first point of contact for most patients. The bulk of the work is carried out during consultations in the surgery and during home visits. General practice allows individual doctors a wide choice of where to practice, with whom and how.
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 (course organisers and tutors) or in local issues (for example on Local Medical Committees or clinical commissioning groups).
Individual general practitioners 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:
More information can also be found on the Medical Careers website