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Young GPs want modern career with good quality of life rather than a round-the-clock calling, says study

GP career 'no longer a vocation'

Younger GPs are increasingly unlikely to see general practice as a vocation, research has concluded.

Instead they view it as a career offering a good quality of life, learning opportunities and providing continually interesting work.

The qualitative research involving 20 newer GPs found most believed the 'Dr Finlay'-style model of vocational general practice was 'dysfunctional' in a modern healthcare system.

The GPs said technical competence, continuous learning and communication skills had replaced continuity and being available round the clock as key attributes of a good GP.

The doctors, all aged between 32 and 37, said attaining a good quality of life was their main motivation.

In comparison with previous studies, they reported having

a more consultative and 'democratic' approach to colleagues and patients and had higher morale.

The GPs were seeking 'nice work', the authors said, which comprised the opportunity to develop relationships with patients and work in friendly, well-run and innovative practices.

Most of the doctors in the study, published in the journal Sociology of Health and Illness in November, were working as non-principals.

Dr Steve Cartwright, a GP trainer in Dudley, West Midlands, said he had seen changes in the attitude of GPs coming through training. 'The 24-hour vocational view of general practice has changed, possibly reflecting society, with quality of life being important,' he said.

'It's a reflection of people saying that you need a life as well if you're going to be fresh to look after patients.'

Dr Gavin Jamie, a 34-year-old GP partner in Swindon, said putting a career as a GP ahead of everything else in life was unhealthy and could leave the doctor open to exploitation.

He said: 'One of the things that's always been attractive is that you have a bit more control over your workload and you have quite a bit of choice on how you practise, which impacts on your working life.'

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC negotiator, rejected the notion that GP jobs in tougher areas would go unfilled if doctors were most focused on their quality of life. 'One of the joys of general practice is that it's a broad church,' he said.

Dr Vautrey added: 'My own perception is the tide is turning – many salaried GPs are now wanting to consider partnership as a longer-term option.'

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