Developing a career as a Portfolio GP

Dr Mahibur Rahman

You may have heard the term “portfolio GP” more frequently over the last few years. This is an umbrella term used to describe any GP that has multiple jobs or that does multiple types of work within their working week. Most portfolio GPs have a primary job – this could be a partnership, a part time salaried position or being a locum GP, with one or more additional jobs in their portfolio.

Many GPs develop a portfolio over time almost by accident – what starts as a one off extra session working in a prison for example can become an interesting part of the regular working week.

The range of additional jobs that you might develop an interest in as part of your portfolio is huge – from developing a specialist interest, to taking on a management role as part of the CCG. Some of the more flexible additions to a portfolio can include:

  • Medical Education
  • Forensic Medical Examiner
  • Prison Doctor
  • GP with Specialist Interest (GPSI)

In this article I will discuss some of these options in a bit more detail.

Medical Education

There are various ways to become involved in medical education, from the occasional teaching and supervision of medical students on placement at the practice to becoming a GP trainer or Training Programme Director. Teaching can be very rewarding, as well as acting as a stimulus to refresh your own knowledge and to keep up to date.

Teaching Medical Students and Foundation Trainees

Most medical schools require doctors that will be teaching students on placement to attend a short training course (often over 1 or 2 days), and then to attend annual training days. Beyond this, you will not need to have any formal medical education qualifications. For teaching Foundation trainees, most deaneries require a similar amount of training.

Clinical Tutor

Many medical schools recruit qualified GPs to become clinical tutors to facilitate small group teaching, or teach clinical and communication skills for undergraduates at the medical school. Having experience in teaching will make you a more attractive candidate, and medical schools often offer further in house training as well as support to complete a postgraduate certificate or diploma in medical education. Time requirements are usually 1-2 sessions a week.

GP Trainer

The requirements to become a GP trainer vary by deanery, although there are some requirements that are fairly common throughout:

  • MRCGP – either by examination or via portfolio
  • Training in teaching – either a trainers’ course or a postgraduate certificate or diploma in medical education.
  • Experience – the minimum post CCT experience varies from 2 years to 5 years.

There are also requirements that need to be met in relation to the training practice. A trainer would usually need to put aside the equivalent of 2 sessions a week to allow time for supervision, tutorials and ongoing workshops for trainers.

Training Programme Director

Programme Directors (formerly known as VTS Course Organisers) have responsibility for organising the regular teaching for Speciality Training schemes, as well as supporting trainers. Programme Directors are usually appointed via deaneries, and again requirements vary across the county, although most require experience of teaching and a formal postgraduate qualification in medical education at diploma or Masters level. Many Programme Directors are experienced trainers. The time commitment required is usually equivalent to 2 sessions a week or more. In many areas with larger training schemes, there are multiple Programme Directors for the same area.

Prison GP

Working as a GP in secure environments may seem daunting, however it can have many benefits. There is currently a huge shortage of GPs in the prison service, so the rates paid are usually very good. The work includes GP style clinics and ward rounds for inmates – you will usually be well supported with an experienced nursing team, and guards are nearby (they can be in the room on request in some cases). As well as acute illness and ongoing management of chronic disease, there is a high proportion of patients with mental health issues and drug misuse problems. Undertaking the RCGP Drug Misuse certificate can be useful to give you more confidence in dealing with this aspect of the work. If you are not sure if this is for you, contact your local prison and talk to the lead clinician – in most cases they will be happy to show you around the unit and offer some induction and training. There is also usually some need for on call cover, although this varies at different units.

Portfolio GP

Forensic Medical Examiner

Forensic Medical Examiners (formerly Police Surgeons) work with police forces to provide assessment and treatment to victims of crime and persons in custody. Many FMEs are GPs that work with the police as an additional role. The work can be interesting and varied, and will include assessment and treatment of injuries, minor illness, sudden illness in custody, and assessment of victims of sexual assault. Most FMEs work as part of a group of doctors that provide cover for one or more police stations day and night. A lot of the time you may be able to be on call from home, with extra fees payable for each visit to the station. Another aspect of the work of the FME involves giving evidence in court.

GP with Specialist Interest (GPSI or GPwSI)

A GPSI is a GP that has gained additional skills allowing them to offer services that have tradionally been offerd in secondary care. They can range from ENT or minor surgery to dermatology, sexual health or musculoskeletal medicine. Usually, there is a process of accreditaion that will require relevant additional qualifications and experience and then getting signed off by a consultant to state that the practitioner is capable of independent practice. Once accredited, a practice may be able to bid for work from a CCG that will allow them to accept referrals from other practices within the area. Having a special interest can make you more attractive to a practice, and a practice offering a successful GPSI service can bring in valuable extra income. There are dozens of possible special interests, and so we will look at this in more detail in a separate article.

Variety is the spice of life

These are just a few examples of some of the options you might build into your career as a portfolio GP. I know GPs that work as civilian medical practitioners on military bases, work as team doctors for sporting clubs, are involved with the air ambulance or emergency services One of the great things about being a portfolio GP is that working in different roles can help keep you stimulated and reduce the chances of burnout. I find that for me, it really is true that “a change is as good as a rest”!

Dr Mahibur Rahman is a portfolio GP and the author of “GP Jobs – A Guide to Career Options in General Practice”. 

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