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CPD: Becoming or recruiting a GP partner

At a time of year when people often reassess their careers, Dr Vivian Wilkinson advises how and why sessional GPs can become a partner, and how practices can recruit one

Key points

  • Partnerships have their drawbacks, but both potential partners and recruiting practices should remember they are ultimately rewarding, giving individuals the chance to shape health services, develop their interests and get an increase in pay 
  • The partnership agreement is essential for both parties, and the new partner and the practice can both speak to their LMCs and the BMA for support in drawing this up 
  • All partners should have their own individual accountant to help them with their personal taxes and explain all the tax reliefs they are entitled to 
  • Practices in England that hire new partners are entitled to £20,000 from NHS England, which they use as they wish, including passing it on to the new partner 
  • Recruiting practices should make clear what training they can provide, and a full list of all the mandatory training and CPD requirements

The partnership model has historically underpinned general practice, but in recent years, it has been steadily going out of fashion. There has been an increase in the number of GPs choosing a portfolio career to allow for flexible working, with recent studies suggesting as few as 19% of GP trainees are seriously considering partnership.1

However, for those currently working as sessional GPs, there is still much benefit to be had from taking a partnership role, and those open to this may find more options available to them. 

 At the same time, for GP partners who are looking to recruit another partner, a reminder of the benefits of the role will be helpful. Here, we will explore the benefits of joining a partnership, and what support is out there for potential GP partners and those looking to recruit. 

Understand why partnerships can seem daunting 
There are several reasons for partnerships becoming less popular. 

Contractual requirements have imposed increasing demands during core hours, as well as extended hours and a requirement for access in the evenings and at weekends. These longer, more unsociable hours, coupled with staff shortages and recruitment difficulties, mean that GP partners – who are ultimately responsible for the running of their practice – have to fill the gaps. It is reported that GP partners typically work 10 to 15 hours a week longer than their salaried counterparts.2

Financial risk is another factor. Buying into premises and taking out a mortgage with strangers can be daunting. What happens if a key partner leaves? What will happen when the old guard retires? How will the newcomers manage, especially with a national shortage of GPs?  

Make no mistake, a partnership cannot guarantee the stability of regular, long-term, salaried income. A partnership is a business and one that takes risks. It can sometimes lead to losses as well as gains. 

There are many extra costs included in partnership. Partners have to look after their own taxes, expenses and income. Partnerships are not protected by the BMA contract with favourable sickness, study and parental leave. 

Partners also have to look after the wellbeing, health and safety of all who contribute to a practice – nurses, receptionists, other staff and patients. That can mean more work – and more stress. The rising workload for GPs is also a major reason for a changing workforce. As Pulse has reported, one partner in three is thinking of taking early retirement in the next five years.3 All parties need to understand these realities.


  • Potential GP partners: ensure any practice you are considering can explain how they are mitigating these problems. 
  • Recruiting practices: have a detailed plan to show potential partners you are aware of the problems but are taking steps to counter them.

Dr Vivian Wilkinson is a GP partner in Manchester 

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