The National Health Service

The National Health Service

The NHS was created in 1948, born out of an ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. This means that today, more than 64.6 million people in the UK receive free care at the point of need.

The NHS deals with over one million patients every 36 hours. It covers the full spectrum of primary and secondary care, from antenatal care and treatment for long-term conditions, to emergency treatment and end-of-life care. It employs more than 1.5 million people, placing it in the top five of the world's largest workforces.

Responsibility for healthcare in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is devolved to the Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly Government and the Northern Ireland Assembly respectively. Our fact sheets give more detail on the NHS in each of the four UK nations.

Becoming an NHS GP

"There is arguably no more important job in modern Britain than that of the family doctor. GPs are by far the largest branch of British medicine. A growing and ageing population, with complex health conditions, means that personal and population-orientated primary care is central to a country’s health system. As a recent BMJ headline put it, if general practice fails, the whole NHS fails." Simon Stevens, Chief Executive, NHS England

With GPs carrying out 90 per cent of patient contacts in the health service, general practice is the bedrock of the NHS.

The expert generalist skills of GPs have never been more in demand. As more care is shifted out of hospitals into the community, GPs are increasingly leading multi-professional teams to provide new integrated services for patients, using a wide range of medical and management skills.

GPs manage the widest range of health problems providing:

  • both regular and reactive health promotion
  • making accurate diagnoses and risk assessments
  • dealing with multi-morbidity
  • coordinating long-term care
  • addressing the physical, social and psychological aspects of patients' wellbeing throughout their lives

They are also involved in deciding how health and social services should be organised to deliver safe, effective and accessible care to patients in their communities.

This is an exciting time to work in UK general practice. By joining the 50,000 plus GPs currently working in the UK, many from overseas, you can enjoy a rewarding and varied career that offers unrivalled flexibility, with the option to fit the job around other major commitments, such as having a family. It also gives you the opportunity to practise in the region of your choice, and to decide to be wholly a generalist or to develop skills in a specific area as a GP with a special interest.

Read personal accounts of being a GP in:

You can also watch a video from a GP working in north Wales in north Wales.

"There has never been a more exciting time to come and live and work in Scotland as a GP, the importance of the GP as the clinical leader in the patients journey is underpinned by the NHS Scotland Clinical Strategy and Realistic Medicine - come to Scotland and be supported to be the doctor you have always wanted to be”  Dr Gregor Smith, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Scotland

Guidance on medical professionalism

It can be difficult to adjust quickly to working in the UK. The BMA can advise you on what medical professionalism in the UK means in practice on 'non clinical' topics such the patient-centred and shared decision-making approach favoured in the UK. BMA members have access to comprehensive, practical on-line guidance on all aspects of medical ethics.

The GMC also run a free half-day learning session, Welcome to UK Practice. The session will help doctors new to practise, or new to the country, to understand the ethical issues that will affect them and their patients on a day to day basis.

Finding the GP role that's right for you 

The UK needs more GPs and there are vacancies in many areas of the country. This means that there are lots of job opportunities for GPs moving to the UK, and you should not have any difficulty in finding a suitable role at a practice that is a good fit for you.

There are some areas with particularly high levels of vacancies, across all of Wales, particularly in rural areas.

In England :

  • the north
  • Midlands
  • West Country

In Scotland:

  • Dumfries and Galloway
  • Lothian
  • Ayrshire and Arran

In Northern Ireland:

  • Fermanagh
  • Derry and Londonderry
  • Armagh

These areas have a lot to offer, with lower living and housing costs. You can work in urban centres, rural communities or coastal towns.

There are several websites advertising GP vacancies including RCGP jobs which will give you an idea of the variety of roles on offer. 

Types of roles

There are a variety of working arrangements for GPs, explained below and on our GP roles factsheet (PDF). There is also more information on the model contract to give you an idea of the working arrangements you will be agreeing to.


A GP partner part-owns the practice and their income comes from the money the practice makes, which means it is dependent upon the success of the practice. They are responsible for staffing, performance management, premises and financial accountability.


A salaried GP is an employee of the practice, or another organisation. The GP's salary is agreed between the GP and their employer.


A locum GP temporarily provides services where there is a short-term need, such as when a practice is short-staffed or another GP is absent. Typically, they are paid for each session they work.

Portfolio career

There is also the option of building a varied portfolio career. This could include working with the police, in prisons, in urgent out-of-hours care, as a GP with a special interest, or a medico-legal GP.

GPs can move between many different roles and locations throughout their careers, and build flexible working patterns around the needs of their patients as well as their personal lives. Find out more and read case studies of GPs with varied careers

Next: Routes into practice >

Find courses & events

The item has been added to your basket.

Continue shopping

Go to basket

This item is out of stock.

Continue shopping

The item is out of stock.

Yes Continue shopping

An error occured adding your item to the basket:

Continue shopping