Working Out Of Hours For Younger GPs – Is It A Good Choice?

We hear frequently that newly qualified GPs are looking for alternative ways to practice right from the very beginning of their careers. But why is this?

As The Telegraph reports, in a recent debate, Dr Buckman, Chair of the BMA’s General Practitioners’ Committee from 2007 to 2013, claimed that younger GPs are less willing to work the hours older colleagues are accustomed to. Faced with the prospect of working long hours in high-pressure environments, many young doctors are now considering out-of-hours work as a standard, rather than as the traditional route for GPs in semi-retirement.

The demand for out-of-hours GPs

Opportunities to work as an out-of-hours GP have never been more plentiful. The average GP treats around 36 patients each day, not including walk-in patients, which can constitute up to 14 hours of work per day. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that so many doctors are choosing to work part-time hours, or are leaving the field early. The decision taken by many young GPs to shun unreasonable working hours has nothing to do with drive or competence – but more of them are recognising that the load placed on GPs in-practice is not sustainable.

Currently, doctors’ appointments are 10-minutes long as standard, which the BMJ argue is too short to properly diagnose a patient. Yet, research featured in the British Journal of General Practice has recently found that patients are finding it more difficult than ever to see their GP. Many patients are unable to see their GP due to long waiting lists, but others cannot physically get to the surgery during working hours. This is where out-of-hours services come in, and the demand is huge.

Out of hours for younger GPs – a wise choice?

As we recently explained in a blog post about reducing GP stress, there has historically been a resistance among older doctors to take on out-of-hours work:

“Often seen as riskier with a greater chance of patient dissatisfaction, there is a shortage of doctors willing to take on out of hours work. However, the benefits to out of hours working can make it worthwhile, as well as open up a new avenue for doctors and medical professionals.”

Whilst older GPs, who have fulfilled their career aspirations and are winding down towards retirement, may not want to take on the independence of an out-of-hours role, doing so can be incredibly beneficial to the younger GP.

The obvious benefit is the flexibility that out-of-hours work provides. Here, you can choose your hours, work weekends, evenings, bank holidays and savour the freedom of being able to fit your career around your lifestyle. This is perfect for new GPs with young families, or for those who seek an adventurous, outdoor lifestyle with plenty of opportunity to travel.

Of course, the rates of pay are often preferential, too – a clear bonus for young GPs who have racked up substantial student debt from the increased tuition fees.

However, there are many other benefits of working as an out-of-hours GP. It is a brilliant route for those interested in gaining a senior role, as this work significantly hones your essential triage skills, whether it be helping patients identify the care they need over the phone or prioritising key cases for visits. You will also deal with more unusual cases. Whereas much of in-practice work involves managing minor and chronic illnesses, with out-of-hours work you can often see the impact of your support immediately.

Another major draw of out of hours work for young GPs is that your work very rarely ‘comes home’ with you. So, if you are an ambitious GP with hopes of career progression at a later date, but are still looking for flexibility for now, working out of hours is a fantastic choice.

If you are interested in finding out more about out of hours for younger GPs or about the work involved in the Berkshire area, we can support you with your career transition and provide all of the information you need. Contact us today on 03000 243 333 to find out more.