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The route to partnership

You have decided you want to be a partner. With competition tougher than ever, how do you get the jump on the opposition? Dr Clare Gerada advises

You have decided you want to be a partner. With competition tougher than ever, how do you get the jump on the opposition? Dr Clare Gerada advises

It is certainly true to say that there are fewer jobs available for those completing their registrar year, and even fewer partnerships. Newly trained doctors are finding for the first time that they are having to face rejection and potential under-employment.

The situation won't last for ever. Overall, year on year, the number of GPs needed increases. The roles that GPs are taking on are become more diverse. Lists are increasing and the average consultation rate is going up. So GPs are most certainly needed.

At some point, most practices will consider advertising for a partner rather than an associate or nurse practitioner. This will often occur when the number of partners has reached a critical minimum point. This may be dictated by property ownership or simply the dynamics of having a business with a shrinking partner base or lack of certain skills, especially those associated with good business. There may also be the increasing desire for permanence as the turnover of associates is relatively high. This can hinder the development of the whole team.

Partnership is without doubt a very attractive option to a young GP. The financial rewards are greater than being a salaried GP, involvement with patients and in the practice is greater, and this usually leads to far greater job satisfaction. Job security is greater too.

You want to be a partner

So what can you do at the moment if you have decided you want to be a partner but work is hard to find and you are waiting for the post that you want to come up?

If you know where you want to work, look around for locum work in that area. Ask about other practices, get a feel about how they work, learn computer systems, pick up tips about practice organisation, work in as many small and large practices as you can and generally use the time expanding your skills, knowledge and experience.

Out-of-hours work is lucrative and is a good way of meeting local doctors, and networking at this stage is very important indeed.

Spend some time developing your GPSI skills and sign up for courses at your local hospital. Talk to the chair of the PEC or the PBC group and find out what the priorities are in the area where you want to work.

It may pay you to build up your business skills. Many practices are keen to take on a partner who is competent in business as the market is now increasingly competitive.

Let us assume that you have found a practice that interests you, and that they are looking for a partner. What should you do next?

Obviously your CV is of crucial importance, and I make no apology for devoting most of the rest of this article to this. We recently appointed a new partner and had around 50 applications. All of them were bright, keen doctors and all of them were extremely highly qualified. But some of them fell down badly on their CV and their interviews.

If you use a photo make sure it is recent. There is nothing more likely to give a negative impression than a photo that makes you look like a model, only to be confronted with a different reality.

Don't tell us the obvious. We know that you have good A levels, went to medical school and did a VTS.

Spend time making your CV match the job specification. Always provide evidence of leadership, good communication, excellence in clinical practice, good teamwork and so on.

Think about what the practice needs or wants and write accordingly. The practice wants to see what you can do for them, not the other way round. So if the practice is in an inner-city area, think of something that you can do to deliver good care – for example, experience in working with substance misusers.

Willingness to buy in can make you very attractive to the practice.

Don't assume the practice knows anything about what you can do. If you can speak two languages, say so.

Take the interview seriously

There is no such thing as an informal visit. You will be watched even if you only meet the reception staff. Partnership is like a marriage. Doctors will not leave it to chance before appointing someone and will try and ascertain as much information as possible.

Before the interview, think about what the questions will be. Rehearse these and have several mock interviews. This is not a training interview; it is one for a senior, well-paid, long-term post. Comparable processes in business and management would include two or three interviews, possibly a written assessment and personality tests. Prepare for your interview as if you are preparing for an exam. Find out as much as you can about the doctors, practice, area, commissioning group, patient population, NHS. Do your homework.

During the interviews, do smile, answer questions succinctly and don't make jokes.

References are usually not called upon until the final hurdle. They are important but on the whole all references are good.

Incidentally, from the partnership point of view, whether to recruit from within or without can be quite a difficult decision. But in the present market it may be wiser to advertise. Encourage your keen associate to apply but it can be very useful to contrast them with the best quality external applicants. If you still go for the home favourite at least you will know for sure you made the best choice.

Finally all practices should offer their associates partnership training or risk disenfranchising the younger generation, as well as reducing future quality.

Dr Clare Gerada is a GP in south London

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