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The waiting game

Ten things partners get wrong when recruiting new GPs

Dr Tom Nolan writes

It’s a difficult time to be taking on a new GP. Vacancy rates have quadrupled over the last two years. One in five posts are taking over a year to fill. Training schemes are undersubscribed and although they are churning out some great GPs, there aren’t enough to go round. With practices having to compete fiercely, simply placing an advert online or in a journal often isn’t enough to get the applications coming in. New GPs are in a strong position and if you don’t make the right impression they’ll look elsewhere. Here are some of the reasons they get put off.

1 The pay isn’t competitive

Your applicants will be asking their friends what the going rate is locally, so you need to have your ear to the ground as well. Then you might have to adjust this up or down depending on the demands of the job and local jobs market. A high intensity job in a deprived area with mountains of paperwork may need to be well remunerated. Most of us won’t mind a more modest salary for a job at a cosy family practice with 15 minute appointments where everyone has lunch together and leaves on time.

2 The practice’s NHS Choices reviews are poor

NHS Choices reviews may be about as representative as a YouGov poll, but everyone still looks at them. A couple of recent positive reviews could make all the difference. Next time one of your regulars thanks you for your years of patience, listening and understanding don’t just usher them out of the door so you can call your next patient: ask them to say it on NHS Choices.

3 The working day sucks

‘Most of us get in before eight to catch up on emails and referrals from the day before. Then we’re consulting from 9am until 12.30pm, often later as they add on extras. Afternoon surgery is from 2pm ‘til 5 so I usually do any urgent jobs before my home visit and eat my lunch in the car. After 5pm (or 5.30pm, realistically, as I always over-run), there’s telephone calls, results, and letters. On a good day I’m out by 7.30pm. So it’s hard work but all the receptionists are really nice.’

When your applicant hears this from one of your other GPs they’re going to run a mile. Giving protected admin time, longer appointment slots or shorter clinics might just sound like ways to lose money but you’ll get a more motivated and effective member of the team who will want to stay with you long term.

4 You asked when I planned to have a baby

It’s illegal to ask a person this during a job interview, although it’s not against the law to think it.1

Rather than seeing a newlywed newly qualified female GP as a series of disruptive maternity leaves, focus on her skills rather than her personal life, and assume they will be keen to work at your practice for as long as you support them.

5 The job advert reads like you’re recruiting for MI5

Why are some practices so evasive about themselves in adverts, giving only a vague indication of their whereabouts and an email address to contact? Even MI5 advertise openly these days.

6 Workload is not divided fairly between partners and salaried GPs

It’s not unheard of for partners to divert much of the day-to-day work to the salaried doctors or junior partner, or get them to do most of the on-calls and extended hours sessions. An unbalanced system can breed resentment and put off applicants.

If you can find someone who will agree to this arrangement that’s great, but don’t be too surprised if after the first week they look miserable the whole time and move on within a year or two.

7 Promises are too vague

Saying ‘view to partnership’ in an advert sounds enticing. Your ambitious applicant full of ideas and enthusiasm will want to know more. But if when they ask you give a vague promise to review things after a year or so depending on how things go they’re likely to lose interest. Only promise this if you can give them a realistic timetable of when they would be offered a partnership and under what conditions. The same goes for other roles such as diabetes or medicines management lead. Any offer ending with ‘at some point’ will be treated with suspicion.

8 You weren’t there when I came to look around

Yes, you’re busy (that’s why you need another GP), but leaving your practice manager to show interested candidates around may not make the right impression. Let the PM do the tour then sit down with the candidate over a cup of tea, ask them about themselves and make them feel special.

9 Your practice doesn’t offer the model contract

Think how wonderful you will look to applicants when you write the words ‘PMS practice’ and ‘BMA model contract’ on your advert.

10 There’s no narrative

No-one ever refused a job citing a lack of narrative, but having one might just draw someone in. Think about the story of your practice and what you want the next chapter to be. You might have a proud history of innovation, personalised care, being the plucky underdog, or fat-cat drawings. Each of these will appeal to different applicants.

Similarly, ask yourself where the practice is going? Even if you’re facing financial ruin you might be better to make this your narrative (with a Braveheart attitude) than pretend that you’re just a run-of-the-mill surgery where nothing happens.

Dr Tom Nolan is a GP in Brockwell Park, south London.


GOV.UK. Employers: preventing discrimination.

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Readers' comments (8)

  • 11. You are based in the UK

    This is a big turn off to potential candidates. Could you rellocate your practice to somewhere near a beach in Australia perhaps?

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  • 12. You run a Balint group and hug trees for resilience training.

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  • It'll be interesting to see what the great Hunt says.

    But can't help feel the article above describes why salaried GP's will be replaced by prescribing pharmacists, PA's etc

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  • 13. Locum work is in demand and you can't possibly compete with the income or lifestyle, or you don't demonstrate why being salaried is better than being a locum

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  • Secure environments GP

    When a practice cannot recruit a salaried GP paying £110K per year and giving a £20K golden hello that about sums up the problem. Inner city deprived area PMS.

    It would have to be a "dream job handsomely paid" to get me back as a partner again or salaried. Financial risk alone of being a partner with retiring partners to buy out completely puts me off.

    The recruitment and retention crisis is a massive problem in itself. Primary care remains on an End of Life (EOL) pathway. The profession had no viable plan to fix it and the Government clearly has another agenda.

    Trying to Sell that or spin it to a new recruit will present some obvious challenges. Most doctors are smart and intelligent.

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  • your only chance is to get them fresh out of VTS otherwise they will know the score and probably avoid.

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  • Good article. I have tried to find a salaried job with at least a BMA contract and fair pay . I dont mind busy if I have max 3hr surgery and my cpd and some admin time. Just the standard contract. However you will be surprised how many practices don't offer it despite being a legal requirement for a GMS. I did 2years salaried job and was given many excuses regarding my contract even after BMA written advice, no admin, no cpd, sick leave did take in to account my 9 years employment with the nhs, no maternity leave just statutory; I had enough I didn't want to argue; i will be a locum now. I don't want to even try to interview elsewhere.m I'm not business minded :(

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  • Having been both a partner and now a salaried GP, I have been on both sides of the fence. I know it is difficult having too many chefs in the kitchen, but lack of involvement in long term practice strategy has been another major issue for me as a salaried GP. It's hard to see a future in a practice where you feel like a number cruncher with no control over the your destiny. A contract which includes practice meeting attendance (paid, not a voluntary extra if you really want to...) would go a long way.

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