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‘Just a GP’: a mixed method study of undermining of general practice as a career choice in the UK
  1. Hugh Alberti1,
  2. Kimberley Banner2,
  3. Helen Collingwood2,
  4. Kymberlee Merritt2
  1. 1 Newcastle School of Medical Education, The Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK
  2. 2 Durham Tees Valley GP training Programme, Health Education North East Lead Employer Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kimberley Banner; kimberley.banner{at}


Objectives Failure to recruit sufficient applicants to general practice (GP) training has been a problem both nationally and internationally for many years and undermining of GP is one possible contributing factor. The aim of our study was to ascertain what comments, both negative and positive, are being made in UK clinical settings to GP trainees about GP and to further explore these comments and their influence on career choice.

Methodology We conducted a mixed methods study. We surveyed all foundation doctors and GP trainees within one region of Health Education England regarding any comments they experienced relating to a career in GP. We also conducted six focus groups with early GP trainees to discuss any comments that they experienced and whether these comments had any influence on their or others career choice.

Results Positive comments reported by trainees centred around the concept that choosing GP is a positive, family-focused choice which facilities a good work–life balance. Workload was the most common negative comment, alongside the notion of being ‘just a GP’; the belief that GP is boring, a waste of training and a second-class career choice. The reasons for and origin of the comments are multifactorial in nature. Thematic analysis of the focus groups identified key factors such as previous exposure to and experience of GP, family members who were GPs, GP role models, demographics of the clinician and referral behaviour. Trainees perceived that negative comments may be discouraging others from choosing GP as a career.

Conclusion Our study demonstrates that negative comments towards GP as a career do exist within clinical settings and are having a potential impact on poor recruitment rates to GP training. We have identified areas in which further negative comments could be prevented by changing perceptions of GP as a career. Additional time spent in GP as undergraduates and postgraduates, and positive GP role models, could particularly benefit recruitment. We recommend that undermining of GP as a career choice be approached with a zero-tolerance policy.

  • primary care
  • qualitative research

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  • Contributors The study proposal was proposed by HA and developed jointly by HA, KB, HC and KM. The focus groups were undertaken by HA and KM and analysed by HA and KM. The survey data were analysed by HC and KB. The paper was written by all authors jointly and all authors approved the final version of the paper. The guarantor for this paper is HA.

  • Funding Funding for transcription, publication fees and the cost of focus groups was provided by the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Newcastle University.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval granted by Newcastle University Ethics approval committee. Ethics Approval application number: 00911/2015.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Additional unpublished data, quotes from focus groups and survey questions which have not been included in the paper, can be requested via the corresponding author.

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