I have a good friend who runs a recruitment company specialising in flexible working. She is aware of the huge untapped resource of talented women at the top of their game who have swapped their careers for family commitments. Her aim is to bring these dedicated and motivated professionals back into the workforce, where they can increase a company’s productivity, through job shares and flexible working.
Having witnessed her career journey, it is not difficult to see the parallels in our roles.
In general practice, it is no longer tenable for one individual to cover the entire working week due to a combination of 12-hour days, increased portfolio working and the desire to combine work with family life. Yet, there are few GP roles advertised as job shares. Instead, practices usually request a range of sessions, from four to eight, in the vague hope that they will succeed in plugging the gaps with the few crumbs they receive.
Job shares are very different from part-time working. The key is in the word ‘share’; you are not a lone worker completing your tasks in isolation before you head home. You are in a subteam of two that shares workload, challenges, learning and laughter.
Education is clearly ahead of the curve here, as we have been job sharing in GP training for some time now. Two trainers share the supervision of one trainee, including shared joint surgeries/tutorials, reviews and, crucially, triangulation for assessment of the trainee.
Job sharing is the ideal solution to the problems of recruiting and retaining GP partners
Job sharing is the ideal solution to the problems of recruiting and retaining GP partners: two people with interests outside the practice who can still use their skills to help run the practice. If I could pair with the right person, in the right practice, I’d probably consider taking up partnership again.
Job shares can also protect continuity of care – a common issue with part-time working. Patients would be registered with a couplet of named GPs rather than one, and would be encouraged to only ever see these two GPs for any planned and urgent care. If we wanted to include allied healthcare professionals, we could drop named GPs completely, and give patients a colour to represent their couplet of GPs and the mini-team of professionals.
Few newly qualified GPs wish to work more than six practice sessions a week, making pairing the obvious solution. An ideal GP job share would involve each day being covered by one of the couplet, with at least half a day overlap for handover. This overlap day would be crucial for handing over any tasks, personal support, co-mentoring – and most importantly, sharing lunch together.
But what would make most difference is for high-profile GP leaders to adopt job-sharing roles, like the joint leadership of the Green Party. It makes every sense for the chair of the RCGP or GPC to be a job share, with each person offering slightly different perspectives, and continuing their other commitments, in the practice or at home.
After all, we like it when our leaders are jobbing GPs at the coalface, and this is one way to allow that to continue.
Dr Shaba Nabi is a GP trainer in Bristol. Read more of Dr Nabi’s blogs online at pulsetoday.co.uk/nabi