Retraining as a GP - Dr Owen Carter
GP Partner in London, previously Adult Neurology
I often say to medical students, if you’d told me I would have become a GP at your stage - I would have laughed at them! I had no desire to be a ‘generalist. I wanted to be a specialist and indeed went to medical school with the aim of becoming a Paediatric Neurologist. Having decided at an early stage to move to become an adult Neurologist, I completed my core medical training after my Foundation years.
I felt disillusioned with the profession, often pursuing academic interest. But then I perceived this left the practical elements about what changes a patient’s wellbeing was being left to those in Primary Care or in the specialist nursing teams. I realised I wanted a career where I was the one who could provide a greater impact on those patients I had contact with - something long term and holistic, recognising the social and psychological aspects of a patient.
Friends challenged me about my prejudice towards General Practice and my viewpoint of what Primary Care was. I think this was probably based around my experience as a medical student in General Practice where I hadn’t seen the best practice. After much internal thought, I applied for GP training. This was, hand on heart, one of the best decisions of my life. As soon as I started working in Primary Care, I fell in love with it. The satisfaction of the continuity of care, shared decision making, and holistic generalised view point is fantastic.
Since qualifying as a GP, I have gained further interests and taken on different tasks in addition to my practice sessions which I still love. I spend almost half my week in cancer roles working within a rapid diagnostic cancer clinic as a GP with Special interest in Oncology, as well as the CCG (as a cancer clinical lead) and Macmillan (as a Macmillan GP) which means I can help to shape strategy and promote best practice. The job satisfaction of being able to feed into these larger primary care networks, for me, really complements my day-to-day clinical work. The benefit my GPwSI role has in my hospital work, as a generalist, helping give an overview of vague symptoms suggestive of an underlying cancer, still allows me to have a more specialist interest. My CCG and Macmillan work enables me to feed ideas from the primary care perspective into the wider system of how health care and the local NHS systems run, which has an impact into services commissioned and adjusting pathways. It’s great to have practical ideas, which change practice and then collectively see how that can transform patient care for the better.
LGBTQ+ health and work to spread the word to enable improvements in the provision of care for these populations, complements my patient facing duties. As a champion GP for the Pride in Practice scheme as part of the LGBT Foundation, there are a number of areas that we try to address such as LGBT + terminology, monitoring sexuality, gender and trans status, health inequalities and how these can be targeted and improved. I can see that we need to better understand the link between worse health outcomes in these groups, as well as poor mental health, increased suicide rates, higher use of recreational drugs and alcohol dependency, and interestingly less likelihood of participating in cancer screening programmes. Gender identity services, bridging prescriptions and timely referral to services are important too.
I’m a Partner within my Practice and I sit on the Board of my local Primary Care Network (PCN) so you can see this gives me real ability to influence, modify and work closely with colleagues from other Practices who have various interests. It’s been great, for instance seeing the development of our social prescribing workforce, helping to structure its delivery, and acting as a mentor and support for the team.
General Practice enables me to enjoy a flexible and fulfilling career that allows me significant professional impact on patient care, both for those I care for directly and patients within the wider setting in terms of the provision of services and promotion of best practice to my colleagues.