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How to attract that new partner

With recruitment now so difficult, you've got to stand out from the crowd – Dr Stephen Gardiner has some suggestions

Many practices still find it difficult to attract partners and there are many unfilled vacancies across the country. Anecdotal evidence suggests newly qualified GPs have been treading water by doing locum work after completing their vocational training while they assess the effects of the new contract. Now the dust is starting to settle it may be the time to start, or perhaps restart, your search for that elusive new team member.

Although portfolio careers are more acceptable nowadays, most doctors will end up working in one practice either exclusively or part-time for years, so it will be important to them that the features of a practice are suitable medically, personally and socially.

Decide how flexible your partnership can afford to be. Although a doctor just retired may have been full-time, could you allow a three-quarter time or job-share partner to replace them? Does your partnership encourage development of additional skills? Would you be prepared to allow a partner to join without introducing capital either into the partnership or premises?

Golden hello

Consider if the practice would offer instant parity to the right person. Mine did 10 years ago. A golden hello may be available and you may be able to offer additional benefits such as extra study leave or paternity leave.

What are the attractive features of your practice area? Do you have a partnership agreement in place? Under the latest Government proposals, the development of additional services in the practice may even give rise to the creation of goodwill in the future which could increase the value of the partnership and make it more attractive.

It is a good idea to speak to your local course organiser and locum agency and let them know you will be looking for a new partner. Word spreads quickly on the grapevine and there may be someone locally who will apply if the offer looks attractive. They will only apply, however, if they are aware of the vacancy – and this is where the power of advertising comes in.

Advertising at your local postgraduate centre is always sensible, but the widest audience will still be reached by national advertising in GP newspapers, the BJGP or the BMJ careers section in print and online. At present there are not many websites devoted to GP vacancies (www.gpjobs.info is one for London) but it is nonetheless imperative that your practice details are available on the internet. This can be either by registering with a listing site such as www.specialistinfo.com or, even better, by having your own practice website. Remember that young doctors usually have easy access to the internet and a website gives you the opportunity to get across far more information than an advertisement alone.

Get noticed

When advertising the first rule is to get noticed. A cursory glance in the situations vacant section of your favourite journal will show you both how to do it and also how not to do it. A box advertisement will get attention and a thought-provoking title will keep it.

Be prepared to flaunt the assets of your practice while not appearing to be either too desperate or frightening to a young doctor. In 2004 all those who complete a vocational training course should appreciate general practice is a business and that it is possible for an effective team to offer high-quality care.

Your practice will therefore need to appear efficient without being cold, be profitable without worshipping mammon, friendly and supportive without being intrusive and overpowering, and finally it must provide high-quality care without being made up of experts in every field.

No small order – but in fact most practices work in this way every day. We do it quietly and are just not used to selling ourselves.

Attracting partners is often difficult, but by being clear about who you want, being flexible, providing easily accessible information and by getting your vacancy noticed you will stand out in the crowd and greatly increase your chances of recruiting the ideal partner.

Things you should

do to attract a

new partner

lAdvertise as widely as possible

lMake your advert memorable

lFlaunt your assets

lBe flexible

lHave your own practice website

lConsider offering instant parity

lConsider offering a golden hello

lConsider offering additional benefits,

ie, extra study leave

Stephen Gardiner

is a GP in Bridgwater, Somerset

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