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How to find the right partnership

Dr Kamal Sidhu explains why he wanted to become a partner, how he went about finding the GP partnership which best suited his ambitions and the new responsibilities he faces.

A business partnership is a bit like a marriage. It may be a long-term relationship during which you might have to agree to disagree, but a divorce is messier and more unpleasant.

So new(ish) GPs should not rush into partnership. We need to have to a fair degree of certainty that the practice offering the job really is a good choice.

Search for partnership
I wanted to get a taste of being a GP first before getting involved in business and finance matters. I became a full-time salaried GP in Newcastle and, after about 18 months, I started yearning to join a partnership.

This was not just because there was the incentive of higher pay. I also desired to be part of a practice's decision-making process. And I wanted to contribute positively to the successful implementation of decisions taken by the GP partners.

There is a dearth of partner vacancies and, hence, limited choice. Essentially, I was looking for a medium-sized practice with a pragmatic attitude about the need to get on top of changes demanded by ministers and other powers that be.

Fortunately, I came across an advertisement for a vacancy for a full-time partner at a progressive-sounding practice, also in the north-east, although joining it would mean moving house. I did some research around the vacancy including asking friends who work in the area about the practice (their feedback was good) and looking at the its website.

I also checked the practice's QOF scores (available online) and which enhanced services it provided. Both can be a good reflection of profitability and the practice's attitude.

Getting the job
Then I embarked on the task of reviewing my CV and updating it. It is useful to get another opinion on your CV, perhaps from your GP trainer or a practice manager. I found out that a concise CV including only the most relevant details will better your chances of getting an interview.

A CV longer than three or four pages is likely to end up in the bin. Email your CV rather than sending a paper copy, unless you are asked to specifically.

After sending my CV and getting shortlisted for interview, I called the practice manager to arrange for an informal visit.

Such a visit is a vital chance to ask questions about the day-to-day running of the practice, the workload, the appointments system and to look around the premises. You may meet some of the partners and can find out if the GPs have regular meetings to discuss issues affecting them.

I was shown around the practice and met the partners. This reflected the practice's open attitude. The interview was a two-stage process: a formal interview where all partners and the manager were present and a dinner with the partners.

The partners' questions ranged from my favourite food and drinks to my views on the QOF and other serious topics. I was asked about my CV and answered questions designed to find out if I would be a good team player.

I was overjoyed to be offered the job although it meant leaving my current practice and patients and moving house. But I did not overlook examining the practice's latest accounts before deciding to accept the offer.

Dr Kamal Sidhu examined the practice's accounts before accepting the job

Practice finances
The manager took me through them. I understood very little but could put questions to the practice accountant. In some cases, prospective partners may need or want to consult an independent accountant.

Regarding the partnership agreement, I made sure I was happy with the arrangements for becoming a parity partner and with aspects including annual and study leave and the retirement provisions. BMA guidance on partnership agreements helped in reviewing the document.

The practice has more than 9,000 patients and an APMS contract to run another practice of 2,000. We are five partners and there is a good mix of skills. Ours is a training practice providing enhanced services.

All decision-making is democratic. We have regular practice and primary care meetings. All doctors meet for 30 minutes every day, and this is a great chance to discuss problem cases or burning issues.

Uncertainty has become synonymous with the NHS in general and primary care in particular, so I consider myself lucky to part of a practice which has the ability to adapt to change and diversify in response to challenges.

  • Dr Sidhu is a GP partner in north-east England
Career highlights
2002 MBBS India
2005 to 2008 - Northumbria Vocational Training Scheme
2008 - MRCGP
2008 to 2009 - Salaried GP in Newcastle
2009 to date - GP partner in East Dur

My new role

  • I will be expected to buy a premises share in due course.
  • Initially, I need to become established and support the other partners.
  • Next, I am expected to lead on clinical governance and get involved in QOF issues.
  • I want to be a GP trainer and hope to finish the trainer's course next year.

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