A general practitioner is usually the first doctor you will see when you are feeling unwell.
General practitioners (GPs) see it all; the widest variety of conditions and the greatest range of severity in patients of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds. They are medical detectives, trained to figure out what might be going wrong, how to treat it and who you should see. GPs can:
- Give advice
- Prescribe medicine
- Organise further investigations
- Refer you to other specialists
- Provide treatment
Once upon a time, a typical general practice would have one family doctor, operating out of their home, who would treat an entire family for a lifetime. Nowadays, practices come in many different sizes staffed with multiple GPs and other health professionals.
Where hospital doctors often focus on just one part of your body, a GP looks at your whole body, your background, and the environment you live in when diagnosing illnesses and prescribing treatments. This is known as holistic healthcare.
Some GP practices offer a patient portal service, which allows you to interact with your GP practice through a secure website. Depending on the practice, you can use their portal to book appointments, monitor your health records, email your doctor or request a repeat prescription.
Find out more about patient portals.
Glossary of roles
Doctors who have completed training:
General practitioner (GP) is the term for doctors who have completed six years of medical school, then two years of hospital and community training and passed three years of the General Practice Education Programme (GPEP). After eleven years of training, exams and practise, a GP can become vocationally registered and become a Fellow of the College.
Doctors training to become General practitioners
Doctors who are training through the College in the three year GPEP programme (having already completed medical school and worked for a couple of years in a hospital) are called registrars. They will work in a GP practice under supervision.
Resident Medical Officers (prevocational training)
Doctors who have completed medical school and are working within a hospital and community scenario learning about patient care. Those interested in becoming a GP will apply to the GPEP programme at the College.
Nurses who have completed training
Experienced registered nurses who have completed additional study and training in one area of practice; most are able to prescribe medicine.
Registered nurses must complete three years of university study and practical experience (mostly in hospitals).
Registered nurses that work in a GP practice are termed ‘practice nurses’ – don’t be fooled by the term ‘practice’: these nurses are fully trained!
Enrolled nurses are also trained nurses but their training is to a less detailed and comprehensive level than that of registered nurses.
These students aren’t doctors yet. They spend six years in medical school and cover a broad spectrum of different topics including general practice.
Nursing students may also spend time training in a general practice.
All students are supervised when seeing patients