This week brings the final blog in our portfolio GP series, we hope you’ve enjoyed hearing from our GPs and if you’re thinking of pursuing a portfolio career are feeling inspired.
Now read on to find out how Dr Hadley Skidmore created a portfolio that he loves.
What does ‘portfolio GP’ mean to you?
I am a portfolio GP, that’s the first thing to say. To me, it means that I have a number of roles that form my work. The beauty of that is that I can scale up or scale down in one or a number of roles that I do.
How do you divide your time? My different roles involve a number of things which include working in the NHS doing GP surgeries, doing private visiting work through GPDQ, working for the General Medical Council assessing other doctors, other MedTech related work, some publishing work, and some medico-legal work. I also do voluntary work with some people living in Zambia, where I am a doctor for them remotely giving medical input, and the work is relayed to me by the internet.
What made you go down the portfolio route?
When I was a trainee, there were lots of people that wanted to be a partner at a GP practice. For me, that was never a given. I thought, ‘well let’s give this a go’, but I am quite flexible with the way I work. The environment in GP was quite hostile, people were leaving and the government wanted us to do more for less. It was an absolute recipe for burnout. I myself didn’t exactly experience burnout, but I recognised when it was getting too much. Something needed to change and I needed more of a work/life balance, so that’s what prompted me.
Does a portfolio career support a good work-life balance?
Yes. The benefit is that it is quite fluid. It does bring variety to the work. I will never ‘not do’ NHS work, but the nature of doing NHS work is that it often feels like a factory production line. It’s quite full-on and there is only so much of it that you can do before you burnout. Therefore, you have to look towards doing a variety of things to actually feel revitalised; that essentially is the key for me.
Do you think having a diverse portfolio makes you a better doctor? And how does it affect the patient care you deliver?
I do. It means that when I do one type of work, I am not stale because I am doing other types of work. When I do a particular type of work, I feel fresher. It also gives me a varied skillset. For instance, doing voluntary work gives me a tropical medicine spin to what I do. Previously, I used to work in evacuation medicine and it was so varied. It involved treating people all around the world, whether it was oil rigs, or vessels in mid-Atlantic or sub Saharan Africa. It gave me an experience in treating people in tropical medicine. It also involved roles in occupational medicine and aviation medicine, so these are all different types of medicine that has given me my skillset and experience. Subsequently, I have been able to deal with tropical medicine more easily, especially since my work involves seeing tourists. You find yourself doing a particular area of medicine, but it does lend itself to other areas. It becomes a symbiotic relationship between all the different roles that I do.
Do you see portfolio careers as the future for general practice?
I think portfolio would ultimately help with the recruitment situation. They need to get more doctors into general practice and I think portfolio GPs would help, but it is not the only thing. I think the way to attract more GPs to general practice is to get rid of all the bureaucracy and micromanagement. Essentially, allowing doctors more time with their patients, because people are complex. People are far more complex than they used to be and we have to do a lot more than we used to with less time.
Do you think the health sector supports portfolio careers?
I think it does increasingly. I think they have taken on board the fact that portfolio GPs are kind of what people are doing now and this is what interests them. I think Bristol, Swindon, and various places in the country have been advertising portfolio careers. I don’t think they’re making it difficult, there are definitely opportunities and schemes out there.
What message or advice would you give other doctors about the portfolio route?
I think you have to find your own journey. There are lots of options out there. I would say that general practice is an amazing platform for doing lots of other things. The trouble is that a lot of people are trained in the NHS and they have a certain tunnel vision about options that are available to them. But GP opportunities are endless, which people in the NHS don’t always realise. I would say research well, find people who do what you want to do, make contact with them, and find out how they got into what they do. General practice is a key to many doors.
If you could send a message to the NHS about portfolio GPs, what would it be?
I think by accommodating the role of a portfolio general practitioner the NHS would actually enhance a long-term profession in the UK’s health system. I have friends who have moved abroad to Canada or Australia, or left medicine completely. Even if it means that someone is doing one day a week in general practice while doing other things – medical or non-medical – who cares?! They are still contributing in one way or another.