General practice doctors are the first healthcare professional a patient sees meaning they play an important role in getting them the treatment they need

As a general practitioner (GP), you'll provide continuing medical care for patients in the community. You're usually a patient's first point of contact, seeing them in the surgery, at their home or within other settings such as care homes.

When diagnosing illness and recommending treatment, you'll have to consider physical, emotional and social factors to provide a holistic approach.

Part of your role will be to refer patients to hospital clinics or other healthcare professionals for further assessment or treatment. You may also run specialist clinics for patients with specific conditions, such as asthma.

You'll work as part of a wider team to discuss care options for patients and their families, helping patients to take responsibility for their own health.

All GPs need to carry out admin work, but if you're a partner in a practice you'll be heavily involved in business functions, such as employing staff, managing contracts and working within strict budgets.


As a GP, you'll typically need to:

  • respond to patients' medical or health problems by referring to their history and carrying out diagnosis, investigation, treatment, and referral as appropriate
  • maintain confidentiality and impartiality
  • liaise with medical professionals in the community and hospitals
  • promote health education in conjunction with other health professionals
  • organise preventative medical programmes for individual patients
  • provide specialist clinics for specific conditions or for certain groups, such as diabetes, smoking cessation and new babies
  • meet targets set by the government for specific treatments, such as child immunisations
  • discuss the development of new pharmaceutical products with pharmaceutical sales representatives
  • carry out a range of administrative work, including signing repeat prescriptions, death certificates and fitness for work statements, as well as preparing letters and reports
  • attend staff meetings
  • keep up to date with medical developments, new drugs, treatments and medications, including complementary medicine
  • observe and assess the work of trainee GPs and medical students and in some cases, teach at medical schools or hospitals.

If you become a GP partner, you will oversee the running of your own practice as a business and will need to:

  • make decisions on the running, development and future of the practice
  • keep financial records and make sure the practice runs within budget
  • recruit and arrange training for staff
  • carry out audits
  • commission hospital services for the community.


  • Junior doctors in Foundation training earn between £32,398 and £37,303. You'll receive extra pay if you work over 40 hours a week. There is also a 37% enhancement for working nights and allowances for weekend and on-call work.
  • A doctor in specialist training starts on a basic salary of £43,923 and progresses to £63,152.
  • Salaried general practitioners (GPs) in England earn £68,975 to £104,085 depending on the length of service and experience.
  • Within Wales, GP salaries are set at £71,738 to £108,249, in Scotland they are £69,993 to £104,468 and in Northern Ireland, £69,974 - £105,592.
  • GP partners are self-employed and receive a share of the profits of the business.

Salaried GPs receive additional benefits such as sick pay, holiday and maternity pay. If you're working as a partner GP you won't receive these benefits and will be responsible for paying your own tax.

Income data from NHS Health Careers - Pay for doctors and the British Medical Association. Figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

A working day lasts from around 8am until 6.30pm but this can vary. Some of this time will be in appointments with patients and some of it will be spent on admin and phone calls.

You may be expected to work outside these hours as some surgeries open on a Saturday morning or late evenings. In these instances, it's likely you'll work on a rota system to cover the appointments. You might also be asked to work 'out of hours' (on-call) and during public holidays.

There are many opportunities to work flexibly or part time. Career breaks are possible although you'll need to keep up to date with any relevant developments in the field. Taking a career break for longer than two years will typically require some retraining.

What to expect

  • There are usually two sessions with patients held each day, one in the morning and another in the late afternoon. Appointments last around ten minutes each. In between the two surgeries, you'll typically carry out admin work, phone calls, referrals and possibly house calls or care home visits for patients who can't make it to the practice.
  • You'll work as part of a large multidisciplinary team that can include nurses, midwives, health visitors, pharmacists, psychiatrists and physiotherapists.
  • Telephone consultations are becoming more common and the use of different forms of media is likely to expand in the future.
  • The work/life balance within general practice tends to be better than in some other specialities, where longer hours and irregular shifts are common.
  • Opportunities are available throughout the UK, from small villages to big cities.
  • Due to dealing with patients' healthcare issues, the work can be emotionally demanding but the rewards of helping people can also be big. If you become a partner GP you'll need to deal with business and HR pressures to ensure the practice is a success.


To become a GP, you must complete:

  • a degree in medicine recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC)
  • a two-year foundation programme of general training
  • specialist training in general practice.

Medical degrees are available at undergraduate level and typically take five years to complete. If you've already got a degree in a subject other than medicine (a 2:1 or above in a science-related subject) you can apply for a four-year accelerated graduate entry medicine programme, also known as a graduate entry programme (GEP). The British Medical Association has further information about applying to medical school as a graduate.

Entry into medicine is competitive, and your motivation and commitment are rigorously assessed. Most medical schools will expect you to take one of the following tests:

The test you take will depend on the medical school you apply to so check with individual course providers for details. It’s important to take practice papers before you do the actual admissions test and relevant preparation materials are available at the above websites.

Following your medical degree, you'll need to complete a two-year foundation programme, which consists of:

  • Foundation Year 1 (F1): allows you to take supervised responsibility of patient care in a variety of settings. Once you've successfully completed F1 you'll be granted full registration by the GMC.
  • Foundation Year 2 (F2): you'll remain under supervision but will take on increasing responsibility and make management decisions. On successful completion of the F2, you'll be eligible for the Foundation Programme Certificate of Completion (FPCC), which allows you to enter a general practice training programme. More information can be found at the UK Foundation Programme.

Across F1 and F2 you'll complete six four-month placements across a combination of acute and community settings.

GP specialty training (GPST) takes at least three years to complete. This includes 18-24 months as a speciality registrar in a range of hospital roles, such as geriatric medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology or paediatrics, followed by another 12-18 months as a GP speciality registrar in general practice.

You will also need to pass the exams for membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and will then be awarded the Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT). This means you can gain entry to the GMC GP Register and start applying for jobs.

For details of training in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales see:


You'll need to have:

  • compassion, resourcefulness, stamina, motivation and perseverance
  • the ability to work within a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals
  • excellent listening and communication skills for dealing with patients
  • leadership skills, especially if working as a partner in a practice
  • the ability to work under pressure and deal with different demands
  • good IT skills for keeping patient records
  • excellent time management skills to balance appointments with admin work
  • a flexible approach to work and the ability to manage change
  • business skills if running a practice as a partner.

Work experience

Entry to medical school is competitive and work experience or a placement in a caring or health environment is expected to get a place. This is to show that you understand what working in medicine is like and that you appreciate the emotional and physical demands, as well as the skills required.

Relevant work experience can be carried out in hospitals and GP practices, hospices and care homes or any other environment that involves caring for people. If possible, try to get experience that involves contact with patients and doctors or other healthcare professionals. Varied experience is particularly useful.

Work shadowing or observing doctors can also be helpful to get an idea of what the work involves. Contact your local hospital to try and get some work or shadowing experience.

For free mentoring resources and experiences designed to support aspiring healthcare professionals - including virtual work experience that is accepted by medical schools, see Medic Mentor.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.


It's likely that you'll work within an NHS practice trust as a GP, although there are opportunities to work in private practice as well.

There are a limited number of jobs for GPs in the armed forces, with some possibility of working overseas. You can also find work in the Civil Service, in settings such as prisons.

Many medical charities, both in the UK and overseas, offer posts for trained GPs, whether early in your career to gain experience, or later when you have experience to offer.

Most general practices in England are run by a GP partnership - a small to medium-sized business operated by either an individual GP or by a group of GP partners. These businesses are contracted by NHS commissioners to provide generalist medical services in a particular area. GPs in a partnership work together as business partners, sharing resources, buildings, staff and each own a stake in the business.

Look for job vacancies at:

Professional development

As a GP, you'll need to complete continuing professional development (CPD) and revalidation to remain on the General Medical Council (GMC) register. This is to show that your skills and knowledge are up to date and that you're fit to practise.

There are various CPD activities that you can carry out and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) can help with this. They offer a variety of courses and events, eLearning, knowledge updates and publications. Find out more at RCGP Learning.

It's useful to develop a portfolio to keep track of your CPD activities and give examples of your work. As well as revalidation, the portfolio can be used for general professional development, appraisals and interviews. The NHS provide access to an e-portfolio for doctors, as well as advice on how to complete it.

You can also become a member of the RCGP as an early career GP. This offers support and resources, such as mentoring and professional networks, to help you transition from training into practice.

As you progress, you may choose to undertake further training to specialise in a certain area and become a GP with a specialist interest. This will involve taking a postgraduate qualification in a specialist topic such as a diploma in cardiology.

Career prospects

It's possible to work for a practice as a salaried doctor, which allows you to stay focused on clinical care and have flexibility over the hours you work.

Many GPs look to become a partner within a surgery, which means that you'll take on responsibility for the business-side of the practice and will have more control over the direction the practice takes.

You could choose to become a locum, working between practices as required. This type of role allows you to spend more time with patients, rather than on practice administration.

It's also possible to become a GP with Extended Roles (GPwER). This goes beyond your core general practice and you’ll need to complete further training. Some GPs, for example, expand their expertise in areas such as substance misuse, epilepsy, endoscopy, safeguarding children, palliative care or sexual health. This can help reduce specialist waiting times and address local needs.

Other development opportunities lie in education, training, research and development, volunteering for charities or providing occupational health services. You could also take on work in the armed forces, prisons, police stations or within medical journalism.

How would you rate this page?

On a scale where 1 is dislike and 5 is like

success feedback

Thank you for rating the page