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How to...market yourself successfully

Many GPs are uncomfortable at the idea of hard-selling themselves. But general practice is changing and we are working in an increasingly competitive world. If you are in a partnership, marketing your practice is vital if you are to attract NHS patients, maximise private work and succeed in practice-based commissioning. If you are looking for a partnership, getting work depends on convincing potential employers you have the skills and experience they're looking for.

Here's what to do.

1 Keep your CV up-to-date. Even if you're not looking for work you've got to be ready if an opportunity comes along. When it does, study the job description carefully and rejig your CV to highlight relevant strengths.

2 Keep up-to-date with clinical and political changes and don't fall behind with such things as your GP appraisal, CPR skills, permanent health insurance or locum-related paperwork.

3 Use your GP appraisal to look at your skills. What are you good at? What are your gaps? For example, you could extend your minor surgery expertise, gain an occupational health qualification or develop your management skills.

4 If you are freelancing, keep your contacts book and diary up-to-date. Make sure your booking and invoicing systems are foolproof so you don't accidentally let practices down; a damaged reputation takes a long time to repair.

5 Make yourself known locally (and indeed further afield). Go to meetings, offer your services to the practice, the LMC, the PCT, practice-based commissioning groups or locum groups. As well as scoring brownie points, you'll make friends and useful contacts, and find out who's hiring and firing. Learn networking and presentation skills; buy a book if necessary.

6 Keep an eye on the competition, whether that's other locums, other practices or private providers. What are they doing? Could/should you do it too, and how could you convince your 'customers' that you could actually do it better?

7 If you're intending to market your practice, make sure you tick all the boxes – QOF points, patient satisfaction, range of services, smart efficient staff and premises.

8 Consider your personal (and practice) 'brand'. Do you convey approachability, professionalism, efficiency, reliability and flair? If not, what do you need to change? An objective friend or colleague may help here.

You may be the best GP on the block, but if other people don't know that, you could miss out on lucrative opportunities. It pays to advertise.

Melanie Wynne-Jones is a GP in Marple, Cheshire

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