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How do I become a portfolio GP?

Dr Surina Chibber explains the roles available to a GP looking to diversify their work

Having an inspiring, enjoyable and rewarding career is something we all aspire to achieve. Many GPs feel that a portfolio career is helping them to diversify within different areas of general practice and protect against burn out, keeping GPs from leaving general practice all together. But how do you start down this career path?

I began my portfolio career soon after completing VTS. Alongside my sessional work I am also involved with my local CCG to help improve healthcare services. I am a GP writer and I am involved in undergraduate education. In the last year I helped to set up MyLocumManager.com - an online software to manage locum admin and provide support tools for locums. I am currently developing a project to improve access to mental health services.

A portfolio career has allowed me to work in different sectors that contribute to general practice. It has given me flexibility to work alongside my family commitments. I do not mean to say that we should all abandon our clinical roles and search for alternative jobs. However, if you are looking to develop more skills and explore other interests then perhaps a portfolio career could be for you.

What are the options?

There are limitless options depending on your interests and goals.

Within general practice

If you have ideas about how local services can be improved for the patient population, then you could become involved with your local CCG. There are numerous opportunities available for all levels of experience. Contact your local CCG directly for more information.

If you’re interested in the future of general practice and have ideas and strategies on how improvements could be made, LMC, GPC or locality lead roles could allow you to be a voice for your fellow GPs.

To support your fellow GPs in other ways you could become a GP appraiser, or become a mentor for other GPs to help provide advice and guidance.

If you want to broaden your clinical skills you can become a GP with special interests and provide more specialist services within the general practice setting. If there are additional services your practice could provide (for example diabetes care) then you could undertake additional diplomas in order to offer these to your patient population. 

In education

If educational roles interest you there are numerous undergraduate and postgraduate opportunities available. Such roles can lead to opportunities for a postgraduate certificate or MSc in medical education. You could help to shape the GPs of the future by becoming a trainer or programme director. Contact VTS schemes, your local deanery or university undergraduate and postgraduate departments for information about available roles.

Outside the practice

If you are interested in entrepreneurship there are a number of schemes like the NHS England Clinical entrepreneur scheme. These can help you to develop a business that can directly improve NHS services.

Other options include medical writing, aesthetic medicine, expedition medicine or volunteer work. If you are interested in media opportunities sign up to the association of broadcasting doctors. There are also opportunities within the pharmaceutical and private healthcare industry, which recruitment agencies can point you towards.

If you’re unsure of where to start, there are many ‘alternative careers’ conferences for doctors which offer information on different career options.  

What are the advantages of a portfolio career?

You can learn additional skills that you can implement within general practice. A portfolio career can offer additional forms of income and can work well if you have family commitments. It can also provide relief from the pressures of practice work and can offer opportunities for career growth and development.

What are the disadvantages of a portfolio career?

It can be difficult to juggle all the roles. Your income can fluctuate according to the opportunities available especially when you are first starting. This tends to be less of a problem once your roles are more established.

So should I do it?

Whether you are a full time GP or have a portfolio career the most important thing is that the work you do contributes to both your workplace and your life in a meaningful and positive way. As general practice faces increasing pressures perhaps portfolio roles are a natural evolution which ensure a varied and talented skill set amongst the profession, whilst keeping the job feeling fresh and protecting doctors from burning out.

Dr Surina Chibber is a sessional GP in West London, GP writer, co-founder of MyLocumManager.com, involved with Hounslow CCG, an Imperial College clinical methods tutor and examiner, undergraduate teacher for Kings College London and a healthcare tech developer.

She will be running the workshop GP Careers in 2016: Things to consider when starting out, at the upcoming Pulse Live, London on Tuesday 22 March. 

 

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Readers' comments (20)

  • Useful article, as a GP partner I have been thinking for sometime of branching into medical education and appraisal work..I might just make a start now!

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  • Really useful article on alternatives to clinical GP work, sometimes it is nice to have a variety of work, as 6-8 to clinical sessions per week can get too much!!

    Do you have any suggestions what may work well for GPs who are new mothers?

    NQ

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  • As a mother of two small children myself I understand that having work flexibility and the option to work from home are important considerations. It would depend on your interests but teaching works well as is set hours, you leave on time and is great for keeping knowledge updated. CCG work (depending on the role) can be managed from home unless you are attending meetings but I found also works well. Medico legal work, the pharmaceutical sector are also worth exploring

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  • Portfolio GP=a PC term for workshy GPs

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  • While undoubtedly an attractive option to work as a portfolio GP there is no doubt that it leads to less face-to-face time with patients, and must be a drag on NHS resources.

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  • To Anonymous at 8.15am
    Such a shame that this is your response. I applaud this doctor for taking a proactive approach to her career.
    I used to be an 8-session full-time partner who prided himself on his work ethic - that didn't stop me burning out, having a year off with stress etc - I have a portfolio career now and love medicine again. Seriously - try it. I worry about the full-time colleagues I know who are just staggering towards early retirement in denial of their own problems. You don't have to flog yourself and sacrifice your health for the NHS to be a good doctor.

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  • Anonymous | GP Partner11 Mar 2016 8:15am
    Its called market forces. The day job is getting worse, so we're all looking at alternatives.

    I trust taking actions on your pension being grabbed at by HMG will also be 'gold-loving', and attempts to keep yourself and your family from long term psychological harm will be 'self-serving'.

    Whilst sad for the NHS, this is a way to survive.

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  • That's right ..market
    Can you explain a practice in Dorset earning £600 or £300 per patient
    Against £100 per patient ?

    http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/your-practice/practice-topics/pay/how-much-each-practice-gets-funded/20009192.fullarticle

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  • To those saying 'useful article', really? This offers no practical help at all to anyone seeking a portfolio career.

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  • I think this is essential for current GPs to protect themselves from burnout. Why should you slog through 8 general clinics a week?

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