Specialty focus: General practice

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General practitioners work in primary care roles in a range of settings. They are often the first point of contact for patients, so they must have a very broad range of skills and knowledge. It is a demanding specialty which is essential for the health service.

Training for general practice occurs after the Foundation Programme and usually takes three years to complete. It is run through the Royal College of General Practitioners and undertaken while working as a doctor, typically in a hospital. After that, a new general practitioner will be able to take up a position from a wider range of environments than any other kind of doctor. They can work in community settings such as clinics and patients’ homes, or remain in hospitals where they work as a way of connecting all the medical specialties in a Trust. They can work in both urban and rural environments.

Often they will treat patients directly while at other times they will refer patients to medical specialties based in hospitals. A new patient could potentially have any medical condition, so general practitioners must have a broader expertise in diagnosis than other specialties. As well as this, working in the community means they will be more closely involved in social issues, for instance in making recommendations for the safeguarding of vulnerable children.

The UK government has set a target of 50% of new doctors becoming general practitioners. This makes general practice the single most important specialty to the National Health Service.

Reports

  • By choice – not by chance                                                                                                                   

This report, led by Professor Val Wass, looks at how medical schools and other key partners can support medical students towards future careers in general practice. 

This toolkit focuses on how to provide work experience for those that are seeking a career as a doctor or general practitioner. 

Useful links