General practitioner

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Mixing practice, politics and maternity leaves

Mark SelmanIf Mark Selman isn’t seeing patients, chances are he’s at school assembly playing the piano as one of his children performs on the flute or saxophone. Or he might be at a BMA meeting, on local medical committee business, or teaching the doctors of the future at Peninsula Medical School.

Indeed, the term portfolio career might have been invented for Dr Selman, 44, who, in addition to his other commitments, works LTFT (less than full-time) as a salaried GP in Exeter.

He and his wife, a GP principal who also works LTFT, have always shared the care of their three children. Indeed, Dr Selman covered two of his wife’s maternity leaves.

But while she followed the more traditional career route of a GP partnership, albeit half-time, he stuck to sessional work, followed by a salaried position.

‘We both work five sessions a week. We basically job-share the children, especially in the school holidays,’ he laughs. ‘But I like the flexibility, even in term time. I couldn’t do all the other things I do if I was a full-time GP principal.’

Adapting to change

So how did it come about?

‘It kind of happened,’ he says. ‘We had our first child when we were GP trainees. I was a year ahead, but Helen had to complete her obs and gynae, so I looked after the baby. I used to bring him into the doctors’ mess, and Helen would rush in and breastfeed him when she could.’

Two other children followed, and medical politics beckoned. Specifically, Dr Selman has been a moving spirit in getting a better deal for sessional GPs, making it possible for others to follow in his footsteps and have a meaningful, if unorthodox, career.

‘Being a locum used to be seen as a dead end,’ he says. ‘Now it’s seen as a different way of working.’

Medical careers are changing, he believes, and the traditional trajectory to consultant or GP principal post is no longer the only route to a satisfactory career.

‘It was always seen as a job for life, but that’s not the case now.’

Dr Selman says that as a salaried GP he doesn’t have the ‘status’ of a partner, but he doesn’t have the responsibility either.

‘That doesn’t mean I don’t take things on,’ he says. ‘I chase the Quality and Outcomes Framework points, for example, because of my BMA experience, and took on the cryotherapy service when the person who used to do that left.’

He also reckons that he earns around £40,000 a year less than he would have done if he had followed a more conventional career path.

‘But my wife works, so it all balances out,’ he says. ‘And being so flexible, I’m able to do so much more with the children. I play the bass guitar with my youngest, who is in an electric guitar group; we go surfing; and then there’s the teaching. Really, I think I’d be much too busy to be a partner.’

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