Portfolio careers – the ‘new normal’?

by Nicki Kemp

Diversification may become the way GPs work in future

Location: UK
Published: Wednesday 23 September 2020
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What is a ‘portfolio GP’?

Well, a 2017 article described the moniker as ‘an umbrella term used to describe any GP who has multiple jobs or who does multiple types of work within their working week’, which for most GPs simply probably feels like an apt description of what they do day-to-day. However, in reality the term refers to a GP who undertakes additional positions alongside a traditional GP role.

And it is something that is becoming increasingly common as GPs diversify and use their skills in different ways. Some ameliorate existing clinical skills, undertaking specialist roles in different areas such as dermatology, rheumatology or in emergency care.

Others take on clinical leadership positions, or roles in commissioning bodies and the more nascent integrated care systems, and others train in and develop teaching and mentoring skills as GP trainers, educators and appraisers. There is a multitude of options.

Being a ‘portfolio GP’ isn’t dependent on your contractual status – whether locum, salaried or partner, many doctors are increasingly taking on roles that are complementary to their GP role. This brings and maintains a diversity of experience into general practice, which can only improve the collective offer we give our patients as GPs.

Perhaps this will be the ‘new normal’ for general practice, or certainly one of the ‘new normals’ as general practice morphs and shifts itself into a form that offers the traditional continuity and holistic care that is its bedrock, and a diversity of roles that appeals to newly qualifying doctors.

It is certainly something we have discussed within the sessional GPs committee, as we contemplate how a portfolio career can offer our locum GP members an element of security if there is a paucity of work again, as we have seen during the COVID pandemic.

If diversifying is something that appeals to you, curiosity is your friend – if you see GP colleagues doing different roles that appeal, ask how they got there, what it’s like, whether you could have a chat, shadow them etc. Most colleagues are only too happy to share their journey and experience to help others.

My experience is that most GPs who diversify remain GPs alongside their additional roles, so if diversification means we retain wonderful experienced doctors in their roles with additional interests, and encourage new colleagues to join the GP ‘ranks’ then maybe this ‘new normal’ is a good thing and something to embrace.

Nicki Kemp is a BMA sessional GPs executive committee member