General practitioner Job planning

Last updated:

Job planning guidance for GPs

The job plan is the document that translates expectations of employee and employer into a working schedule. It ensures that the post delivers its aims and the requirements of the contract of employment are met, including provision for CPD.

Download templates (PDF)


Principles of a good job plan

Job plans should be developed collaboratively between the employer and employee, and reviewed regularly by mutual agreement. This should be done at a minimum of 8-12 weeks after the initial appointment, and then annually, or when there are any significant changes to the work pattern suggested by either party.

Scheduling in job plan should include:

  • Clinical duties: appointments, visits, dealing with telephone queries from patients or other health care professionals.
  • Administration/paperwork: whether arising directly from this caseload (referrals, investigations, results) and indirectly (reports, medicals, etc).
  • Primary care team meetings: formal or informal, essential to the delivery of team based care, discussing clinical practice standards, developing practice protocols, mutual professional support for the individual practitioners, audit, significant event analysis, meetings with colleagues in the locality, care trust etc. Where these occur on an ad hoc basis, adjustments to clinical workload may be required.
  • Personal CPD (continuing professional development) time: This may include a mix of in-house meetings and events, time away from the practice, either in private study, attending educational events or time in lieu of attending educational events outside of normal working hours.
  • Time for personal mentoring.
  • Specific specialist roles in the practice: e.g. medical student or registrar teaching or training, responsibility for particular areas of practice development, QoF areas of responsibility, ‘Practitioner with Special Interest’ etc.

Workload should be:

  • Broadly Defined in amount (number of patients) and type (clinical, paperwork, team meetings), with provisions for fluctuations in exceptional circumstances.
  • Reflect the individual employee’s particular abilities and developmental priorities, such as those relating to experience, return after a career break, disability, or knowledge of a second language.
  • Realistically match contracted hours as defined in the contract of employment
  • Balanced, recognising both clinical and non-clinical work (including meetings, both formal and informal and administration). It is estimated that the ratio of clinical work to administrative work is usually in the region of 3:1 for salaried doctors without any practice development role and this excludes meetings. This ratio may vary greatly from practice to practice. Where the post-holder works effectively like a salaried partner or performer/provider, this ratio is likely to include significantly more time needed for practice development.

Extra contractual duties

There must be clear agreement on arrangements regarding how and when extra-contractual duties (where agreed to) will be recognised, when time in lieu will be taken (e.g. monthly or added to annual leave), or when additional payments are made. This is of particular relevance where there are significant fluctuations in workload and hours of the employed doctor if she or he is helping to cover another doctors’ absence, for example, sickness or maternity leave.

Session length

Although a session is defined as 4 hours and 10 minutes, periods of duty do not need to be exact multiples of sessions. For example, short days are permissible as long as the hours are all counted. An example would be where childcare commitments mean that an employee may prefer to work short days – perhaps two days from 9 am to 3 pm and one day from 9 am to 1.40 pm = 4 sessions (16 hours 40 minutes).


Breaks should be granted within worked hours in keeping with the European Working Time Directive. Improving working lives: start and finish times should consider the employee’s need to meet childcare or other care commitments.


It is helpful to specify whether this includes correspondence/prescriptions addressed only to the doctor or whether it includes a share of the day’s workload. Reports – whether time is allocated within the general admin time, and reports are shared, or whether time is blocked-off during surgery and whether the fee is retained by the doctor.


Commitment should be specified in terms of frequency but also maximum number in a month or year as on call duties can often extend contracted hours for that day or week. e.g. 12 mornings a year, and the hours covered. On call frequency should be based and not exceed the pro-rata share of clinical work for that doctor. So for example a doctor works 4 sessions in a practice where there are 40 sessions provided by doctors. The doctor should not be required to work more than 1:10 of the on calls (assuming all are present and not off on maternity and long term sick). On calls in a year (52x5)-8= 252. Share for this doctor is 252/10=25 per year or around 2.5/month.

Clinical workload

It is not appropriate to base clinical workload on that of partners. This is because partners (defined as performers/providers under the new contract) define their role and workload as a reflection of their profit share rather than in hours. As profits can fall and rise so can the workload of partners in a way which should not be expected to affect salaried doctors on an hour’s based contract. Employed doctors are contracted and paid on the basis of time worked. There is a risk of breach of contract if employed doctors’ commitments increase due to, for example, a colleagues’ leave, unless these additional duties are entered into by mutual agreement (see Model terms and conditions of service for a salaried general practitioner employed by a practice or PCO and the provision for additional sessions).

Assessment of workload

An employed GP contracted to work an 8 hour day should not be expected to see the same number of patients as a partner who works a 9 or 10 hour day. Just because partners decide to attend meetings in addition to existing around clinical commitments does not mean it would be appropriate for salaried doctors to do so if this means an unpaid increase in their hours work. Such an arrangement would necessitate additional payment or time-off in lieu.

Surgery times

Surgery times should make a realistic allowance for late arrival of patients, overrunning, as well as necessary time to make urgent referrals which cannot wait until the next worked session. A session finish time of 5.30 would require the last booked appointment to be at at 5 pm (or earlier if the doctor only works one day a week and needs to finalise all referrals the same day). The time at the end of surgery will depend on the length of the surgery, on when the doctor will next be in to act on referrals, and perhaps the practice’s policy on patients who attend late for their appointment.


These are usually expected to take 30 minutes. Any estimation made should be realistic and, for example, in rural practices, a longer time would be necessary where extended travelling time for visits will need to be taken into account. It is preferable to indicate a number rather than a range. Where a range is indicated for a day, it is advisable to agree a maximum weekly limit so that where visiting time erodes admin time on one day the balance can be redressed on another day without a exceeding contracted hours. There should be clarity about the cut-off time when the visits become the responsibility of the doctor on call.



  • Sessions vs hours?

    It has been traditional to talk about sessions in general practice. Under the retainer scheme a session was originally defined as 3-3.5 hours.

    Under the new GMS model salaried GP model contract:

    • – Full time is 9 sessions or 37.5 hours per week
    • – The length of a session is therefore 4 hours and 10 minutes
    • – CPD entitlement is one session per week /4 hours per week on an annualised basis for full time practitioners and pro rata for part-time practitioners.

    Calculating the contractual commitment (working hours) is key to calculating the appropriate level of entitlement to bank holidays, continuing professional development (CPD) and pensionable service.

  • Can I work for periods of duty that are shorter than 4 hours?

    Yes there is nothing to stop you agreeing with your employer a job plan with the following hours:

    9 am - 3 pm Monday
    9 am - 12 pm Tuesday
    9 am - 12 pm Wednesday

    The contracted hours are 12 hours per week, or 12/37.5 of full time.

  • How do I calculate CPD entitlement if I don't work a multiple of the standard length?

    A full-time salaried GP working 37.5 hours per week is entitled to 208 hours of CPD a year. To calculate a part-time salaried GP’s CPD entitlement:

    • Number of hours worked per week x 6.4 = number of minutes of CPD per week [X]
    • X divided by 60 = number of hours of CPD per week [Y]
    • X or Y x 52 = annual entitlement to CPD (X = minutes; Y = hours).

    Please note that GPs under the GP retention scheme are entitled to the pro rata full time equivalent of CPD as set out within the salaried model contract.

  • Can team meetings over coffee count towards the CPD entitlement?

    Not all meetings are educational. Primary care team meetings are an essential part of the work of all GPs and an important activity in their own right. These meetings may have as overriding priorities coordinating the care which the team provides to patients, discussing clinical practice standards and developing practice protocols, as well as providing mutual support for the individual practitioners. Many of these activities are essential to the management of the practice and to clinical governance. The salaried GP model contract makes provision for attendance at these meetings outwith the CPD entitlement, and therefore time spent at these meetings should not be deducted from the CPD entitlement. Some of these informal meetings may have mentoring value. And it is for the employee to decide with his/her educational supervisor how his/her personal mentoring will best be provided.

  • Should the job plan include unpaid breaks?

    As a general rule the answer is NO. This is because:

    (1) The gaps between fixed clinical commitments are crucial opportunities for communication between team members whether this is as formal team meetings, or informally. Unpaid breaks fail to recognise the professional attitude of GPs who have traditionally been prepared to have working lunches, discussing cases, practice issues, or where there is a high workload, catching up on paperwork.

    (2) Short breaks of, for example, 30 minutes, which preclude the GP from absenting himself or herself from the surgery will generally mean that he/she will be considered and treated as available for queries by staff, other health care professionals, GP registrars or patients.

    (3) Where workload is exceptionally heavy, a salaried GP would most likely agree to help out with extras or visits over and above his or her agreed job plan even if scheduled to be on a break.

    It is helpful to note guidance issued by the BMA in respect of breaks in hospital consultants’ job plans (below).

    The BMA consultants’ committee guidance on breaks

    A proper balance of work and rest is vital to maintaining a healthy workforce. The BMA thus recommends that consultants should ensure adequate breaks from clinical work during the day. However the BMA believes that the nature of many consultants’ work means that it is rarely possible for them to absent themselves from clinical duties and have a total break. This necessarily professional attitude to patient care means that during a day of clinical activity it is unlikely that many consultants will be able to free themselves from potential interruption so as to allow an unpaid lunch break. The professional nature of consultant work will allow breaks to be taken where possible, but their continuous availability during this time is a benefit to patients. Consultants normally exercise their judgement in taking breaks flexibly, at times chosen to minimise disruption to patient care and to promote the safety of patients.

    The BMA consultants’ committee guidance on lunch breaks

    There has been much discussion over the question of lunch breaks, and whether they should be included in programmed activity time and therefore paid, or counted as an unpaid ‘gap’ in the day. The answer is perhaps surprisingly simple.

    Where there is not a real break from employed activities, then this should be recognised, with no break between Programmed activities. For example, the consultant who attends a lunchtime postgraduate meeting, multidisciplinary meeting or management meeting clearly has no break and the time must count as PA time. Similarly, consultants who eats lunch between cases in theatre, at their desk while reading clinical notes or in front of their computer while checking work e-mails have no real break.

    The SiMAP ruling established that time spent at the workplace and at the disposal of the employer counts as work, even if the employee is able to sleep. So, the only sort of break which should be scheduled as unpaid, non-PA time is if there is a genuine break in activity, in particular when the consultant is able to leave the premises and be uncontactable, for example to take lunch in a nearby restaurant, walk in a park, on the beach or to go shopping. This should be stated clearly in writing by management, for the avoidance of any confusion. Further, management should make clear in writing what other arrangements they have made for the cover of patients, clinical emergencies, GP phone calls, ITU or CCU while you are not working at the lunch time. Further, they need to recognise the loss of flexibility and capacity that will follow from consultants needing to get clinical activities ‘wrapped up’ in order to get their lunch break before the next programmed activity begins.

    In the vast majority of cases it makes far more sense to accept that consultants are very senior staff who eat lunch flexibly and at times which fit around patient care and without a genuine break from work. Many consultants will not have a lunch break outside of PA time, because few have genuine breaks between activity.

    As for the working time directive, consultants have derogated from the rest periods so that compensatory rest can be taken at another time. Although regular breaks are desirable they are not mandatory and in any case the nature of consultants’ working lives makes it difficult to take them at set times.