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How to recruit the perfect GP partner

Chris Acton and Joanne Bartlett provide a step-by-step guide to help practices find the right person to join their partnership.

If done well an interview is a quick means of obtaining information (Picture:iStock)
If done well an interview is a quick means of obtaining information (Picture:iStock)

Recruitment and selection is an investment decision and the same care should be taken as with any other large-scale investment. It must also be efficient, using the most cost-effective advertising and recruitment sources and methods. So what steps should practices take?

Step 1: Define what you want

The first step is to concisely define the qualifications, skills, experience and general attributes needed by GPs to successfully fit in as a new partner in your practice. The process should start by preparing a person specification. This will:

  • Allow potential GPs to assess their suitability for your particular practice.
  • Provide the criteria for shortlisting GP applications.
  • Facilitate objective selection of the most suitable GP for the post.
  • Help to ensure proof of objective, non-discriminatory recruitment practice.
  • Provide equality of opportunity.

The requirements listed within the person specification must be objective, justified and measurable.

Understating the requirements may lead to the appointment of a GP unable to do the job. Overstating the requirements may lead to shortage of suitable GPs, or dissatisfaction of an overqualified person whose talents would be under-utilised.

Step 2: Placing the advertisement

The first sentence of your advert is critical for attracting GPs’ attention and should reflect the most interesting part of the role or the practice. Having attracted attention, you now have to keep it and sell your practice. 

The text should usually include key information on:

  • Your practice – size, future developments, achievements.
  • The partnership – summary of the key responsibilities; whether the post is full time or part time and any relevant information about career prospects and training opportunities.
  • The requirements – including relevant qualifications, experience, skills and attributes (based on the main essential criteria from the person specification).
  • The advantages/benefits for the successful applicants, which would include family friendly approaches, for example.
  • A closing date.

Step 3: The information pack

Information packs for applicants should include as a minimum:

  • A covering letter
  • Information about your partnership and practice team
  • The person specification
  • An equal opportunities statement
  • An application form – event for a partnership position use of an application form is preferable to asking for applications by CV alone. This is because it will help to sort out those applicants who have really thought about why your practice is the one for them.

Step 4: Short listing

Short listing candidates for interview should be done within 3-4 days after the closing date to avoid losing potential GPs. Even in a climate where there is a shortage of partnerships available, the best candidates are always snapped up very quickly.

Short listing should ideally be undertaken by everyone on the proposed interview panel. This should normally be the existing GP partners, a senior nurse and the practice manager. 

When short listing the panel should ensure the following:

  • The selection criteria used are only those specified on the person specification. Personal knowledge of the candidate should not be used.
  • The criteria used must be applied consistently to all candidates.
  • Reasons for not short listing a specific GP should be clearly stated on the short listing form, as these could be examined at an Employment Tribunal if an applicant submits a discrimination claim.

Step 5: The interview

In essence the process of interviewing involves predicting how successfully a particular GP is likely to perform as a partner by measuring them against the requirements of the person specification. Appointing the GP that best meets these requirements ensures objectivity.

The critical factor is how the interview is handled. If done well, it is a flexible and quick means of obtaining information.

Interviews should be done in at least two stages – one with the panel as summarised above, and a second on a one-to-one basis with either a lead GP or the practice manager. This second stage interview would cover more personal aspects of the appointment including, for example, financial matters.

If the selection process includes a social gathering, invitations should make it clear that applicants with reasonable dietary requirements (which may be associated with their religion or belief) will not be disadvantaged by the process or the venue.

The selection process may also include tests to assess the candidates’ skills in specific areas of the person specification and, if the practice has not appointed a new partner for some time, external support by recruitment specialist may be sensible at this point.

Step 6: References

The final step before formally offering a partnership position involves securing written references, ensuring for non EU citizens that a candidate has a work permit, and carrying out CRB checks.

Step 7: Induction

All new staff, including a new partner, should go through an induction process, which will need to cover values, goals, working practices and corporate policies. 

It is important that your practice manager spends time going through arrangements with new partners to ensure that they are clear about their individual responsibilities, objectives and working practices. 

  • Chris Acton and Joanne Bartlett are directors of the Primary Care Partnership Ltd. The company helps with the recruitment and selection of all primary care staff including GP partners. www.thepcpartnership.co.uk

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