A general practitioner (GP) provides medical care for patients in the community, diagnosing and treating illness, disease and infection. They see patients in their surgery or visit them at home. Having made a diagnosis, they assess the situation and decide on appropriate action: either giving general advice; prescribing medicine or treatment; conducting minor surgery or referring the patient to a specialist consultant for tests and further diagnosis.
A GP works in a team of health care professionals including nurses, health visitors, midwives, physiotherapists, dietitians, counsellors and others, as well as the administrative support staff in surgery.
GPs are responsible for running the practice, planning and providing treatment, and in England, commissioning health care from other health professionals. They must keep up to date with medical developments, new drugs and treatments.
Most GPs organise preventative medical programmes and health education for various patient groups, such as flu vaccinations for the elderly and others at risk, and special clinics for pregnant women, mothers and babies or patients with particular conditions.
The work of a GP also includes administrative tasks such as writing letters and reports, and maintaining patient records. Most patient records are now computerised.
Some GPs develop skills in specialist areas such as mental health, dermatology, diabetes, substance misuse or sexual health. Certain areas demand formal training and qualifications, whilst others require experience-based evidence. Some GPs are beginning to use video links for patient diagnosis, especially in rural practices.
Full-time work for GPs is defined as 37.5 hours a week. This can include evening and weekend work. Many GPs will do some emergency on-call work, although the use of deputising services is becoming widespread.
GP surgeries are generally modern and purpose-built.
A driving licence is likely to be essential in order to undertake home visits; in rural practices you may have to travel long distances.
To be a GP you should:
If you would like to know anything about GP that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.
General Medical Council (GMC)
350 Euston Road
Tel: 0845 357 3456
Royal College of General Practitioners
14 Princes Gate
Tel: 020 7581 3232