As we delve into what a portfolio GP is and what it takes to step beyond the conventional career pathway we’re excited to bring to you the first in our series of interviews, with GPDQ’s Dr Jinesh Mehta.
What does “portfolio GP” mean to you?
For me, a portfolio GP is an individual who is interested in different aspects of medicine and in working different roles.
How do you divide your time?
Primarily, I am a GP principle in the NHS. I also work as a sports doctor for a premiership football club, do some private GP work for health prevention, and I am a musculoskeletal lead for service transformation in the NHS. This breadth of work requires a number of different skills.
What made you go down the portfolio route?
I think most people fall into these sorts of things, and I think it’s all about adaptation. As medics we are adaptable, and we have to be because of the jobs we do. I fell into the different roles as a consequence of high pressures in the NHS. I started as a ten session GP when I qualified ten years ago, and every two years, I have dropped a session – realising that I can’t keep up with that sort of pace.
Do you think having a diverse portfolio makes you a better doctor? And how does it affect the patient care you deliver?
Absolutely. Happy doctors mean happy patients. It means that you enjoy your work and you do it to the best of your ability and skillset. I would like to consider myself a very happy doctor. It means that I have more time to keep up to date and I enjoy my work, so I think patients benefit as a consequence of that.
Does a portfolio career support a good work-life balance?
Yes absolutely. I think it is too intense to work in the NHS as a GP doing ten sessions a week. It is very easy to get burnt out doing that type of work, largely due to the intensity and complexity of the medicine that you are doing. So in order to mitigate burnout, I think more and more people are taking on a portfolio career, where they are happier doing different roles, giving them variety and therefore preventing burnout.
Do you see portfolio careers as the future for general practice?
Inevitably. Unless the demands change, or technology takes over large strata of pressure on doctors. I think portfolio careers inspire doctors to stay in the profession.
In medical school, you have a very narrow future – you do training in the NHS, then you get a job in the NHS, and you’re confined to the NHS. But actually, there are lots of disciplines that you can do outside of the NHS. You do have to work hard to get into certain roles, but they are ever so increasing. Such as media doctors and radio, writing articles and blogs is a massive area. Virtual reality is becoming the next big thing.
I think in order to survive in the NHS, you have to have interests outside of it, whether they are curricular or non-curricular. If you stay within the NHS working intensely, by and large people will burnout and leave. This might not necessarily mean that they leave medicine altogether, but they will leave the NHS.
The NHS is a fantastic place to work. It’s filled with lots of challenges of course, but also lots of learning opportunities.
My personal view is that if you are a doctor not within the NHS, it’s harder to keep up to date with new trends, new treatments, and new knowledge. By keeping your hand in the NHS, even though intense, you are at the coalface, making sure that you are up to date.
Do you think the health sector supports portfolio careers?
I don’t think they have a choice. They’ve got what they’ve got at the minute.
What message or advice would you give other doctors about the portfolio route?
Finding your passion is key. If you enjoy something, go for it. It’s a long career, so definitely find work that you enjoy. Be willing to be flexible in your diary, because you won’t have set sessions.
If you could send a message to the NHS about portfolio GPs, what would it be?
My message to the NHS would be to create a learning environment and community environment to retain individuals and skills within the NHS with different types of roles. This way you are not losing individuals to the private sector and other countries. And this is happening at a staggering rate and I do feel that if they don’t do something soon, the crisis will get worse.
We hope you enjoyed reading and tune in next week to hear from Dr Mateen Jiwani, our Chief Clinical Officer and a portfolio GP.