Is it the end for community GP practice careers?

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Smaller GP practices are in decline. What could this mean for your GP career? We spoke to healthcare recruitment specialist, Prospect Health, for insights and advice.

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Recent figures from NHS Digital show that the number of GP practices with 3,000 patients or less is in decline. In fact, one in 10 GP practices in England had a patient list with fewer than 3,000 patients in 2017, compared with one in five a decade earlier.

Accompanying this decline is the fear that the community minded spirit of the role of a GP will be lost and that patients’ continuity of care will suffer.

We spoke to Prospect Health for their views on what the decline in small GP practices could mean for your career and the wider recruitment landscape.

Salaried GP positions dominate 

Prospect Health’s records tally up with the trend identified by NHS Digital. As Jason Dunn, business development manager at Prospect Health, explains:

“95% of the roles we have filled since the start of 2017 have been for salaried GP positions. There is no current demand for partner GP roles and talking to GPs day-in-day-out all over the UK, we know this is down to workload increasing, funding or remuneration decreasing and the steady, modern, changes corporate groups are introducing to GP practices. 

“The traditional GP partner role of course still exists and we know that the majority of GPs hold this role, however it is changing and opportunities for GPs are adapting.”

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What do GPs want?

“To be successful, recruiters have to understand candidates, their motivations for moving and what they’re looking for from their future roles”, comments Anna Hopkins, content manager at Prospect Health. “They also have to be aware of the current market, the needs of their clients and how external factors are impacting on their business decisions.”

Prospect Health’s data analysis showed that GPs looking for a new role were not motivated by the prospect of a ‘partnership’. The key deciding factors are:

  • Workload: GPs want, and in some cases need, flexibility. Those with young families especially are keen to balance a healthy work/home life and many are looking for opportunities to specialise in certain areas.
  • Relocation: Most GPs move roles due to wanting to relocate. As GP registrars they are looking for a place to settle and start the new phase of their career. Those with more experience are looking for a change of scene or a practice that can offer stability and modern facilities.

Further statistics from NHS Digital from March 2017 to December 2017 show that there was a 3% decrease in the number of GP partners in the UK, but a 7% increase in the number of salaried GPs. 

“The quantifiable data from NHS Digital, married with our qualitative data, shows that GPs are moving towards salaried roles. They are looking for security and they want to focus on their clinical skills”, reflects Hopkins.

“The landscape is changing for GP practices and what makes working in this area rather different than most recruitment sectors is that GPs aren’t necessarily motivated by money. They want to work to the best of their ability and provide for their patients. 

“The traditional community practice is changing, they are getting bigger and there are more doctors looking after more patients, but the mind-set of the doctors in terms of the care they aim to deliver has not changed – they still want to be part of a community”, she adds. 

Prospect Health is a healthcare recruitment specialist that has been working with GPs and GP practices for over 14 years. Based in Harrogate and with a team of over 40 people, it aims to provide confidential, experienced advice to clients and candidates in the health care sector. 

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