Working as a Private Locum GP with Dr Patel
DocTap specialises in providing convenient and affordable GP care to patients across their 9 extremely well-located Central London clinics.
They're currently recruiting GP's to join their private London staff bank, so we caught up with Dr Amish Sunny Patel, a GP currently working with Doctap, to find out a bit more about the role.
In this interview, Sunny explains what it's really like to work at Doctap, giving us insights into his day-to-day role, how this compares to the NHS, and a rough idea of how much a doctor could earn with DocTap.
If you'd like to find learn more about this role and see our full job listing, you can click on this link here.
Could you tell me a bit about yourself?
I'm originally from the best seaside town in the UK (Blackpool of course!) but went to medical school in London where I trained at GKT, as part of King's College London.
After medical school, I did my FY1/FY2 in the North-Central London area and then I spent a couple of early years out of training working in A&E as a locum; mostly at St George's Hospital. I even made a cameo on one episode of '24 hours in A&E!' I then did my GP training in East London which was a wonderful experience in Hackney and I have now been qualified as a GP for nearly 5 years.
How did you get involved with DocTap?
After I finished my GP training I wasn't sure which practice I wanted to settle at and so chose to locum at various NHS practices to get a better feel of them. I found DocTap through an advert on a locum agency site and I had never done any private work so was intrigued but quite apprehensive about applying. However, it was just a single 4-hour shift so I thought I would give it a go.
I met Alex, one of our co-founders, at that first shift who helped show me the ropes. He was really friendly and welcoming, and what had initially felt quite daunting ended up going really well. So I signed up for a few more shifts, which then became 1 day a week.
Over the past 4 years, I've been working as both a Salaried GP in an NHS practice in East London and as a DocTap GP, until 3 months ago when I left the NHS practice I was at and I'm now working with DocTap full time.
How does your work with DocTap differ from the NHS?
In some ways not so much! My pre-conception of private work was mistaken that I would be managing quite challenging and demanding patients given that they were paying for the appointment. However, my experience in these 4 years of DocTap is not that at all. Perhaps as we are a low cost/affordable private GP service, my patient cohort is very similar to what I was seeing in the NHS.
I have to say, that whilst this is not the experience I believe my patients had where I was a salaried GP (where access to GP appointments was very good), a lot of the patients I consult with at Doctap have struggled to get an appointment with their NHS GP as quickly as they would like and they have felt happy to pay towards a speedier service.
The problems dealt with are still mostly what you would see in an NHS GP clinic; with a mixture of physical health and mental health problems. There are a few exceptions with some patients coming for things that are not covered by the NHS: such as health certificates prior to sporting events and health screening on an otherwise well patient. This variety helps to break the day down into what feels like a more manageable caseload I have to say.
In some other ways, we are very different to a standard NHS practice; our clinics for example are in a variety of London (mostly central) locations and often within a shared office building structure. So unlike most NHS GP's, we are the only GP on-site in our clinic and when the patient arrives at reception they are advised to sign in on our iPads (which alerts us that they have arrived) and wait to be called in the waiting area.
Some of these office buildings are really quite beautiful; such as the one I work at in Victoria where the whole ground floor is designed with wood panelling and has a modern Scandinavian vibe with both a pool table and foosball table to play on! Some of our other clinics have been inside well-known pharmacies in prestigious areas and we also had one clinic until recently inside a Michelin star restaurant in Chelsea!
This year we are opening some mega-clinics, with the opportunity to work alongside other healthcare professionals (think physios, psychologists) in a brand new setting; which is an exciting direction for the company.
We have longer patient appointments than most NHS GP clinics with a minimum of 15 mins per appointment and the patient is encouraged to discuss one problem per appointment. This means that it is often quite possible to not overrun the clinics and leave work on time! That's not something I could say frequently in my NHS roles.
What's an average day like?
I currently work 4 days a week with my shifts split between our clinics in Victoria and King's Cross in central London. The clinics I do are a mixture of lengths from 2 to 4-hours, for example, on a Wednesday I typically work in our Victoria clinic from 9 am to 1 pm and then work in King's cross from 3 to 5 pm, whereas on Saturday's I work in King's cross from 10 am to 5 pm but with a 1-hour lunch break in the middle of the shift.
Patient appointments are a minimum of 15 mins but some patients choose a longer appointment if they have more than one issue to discuss or if they feel they want more time with the GP. I will typically consult with about 20 patients in a day and a large portion of these are now face-to-face.
In response to the pandemic, we started conducting telephone appointments and these have continued to be popular despite restrictions easing and so the clinics are often interspersed with some telephone appointments too. There are some admin tasks but these are often not overly time consuming and can be done between patients or in the breaks that are allocated throughout the clinics.
What are the best things about working with Doctap?
It's just a really nice place to work! I always leave feeling quite satisfied with the day of work I have had and I think that starts with the fact that we get a good mix of patients. Because you have 15-mins per patient (and sometimes longer if they've booked a double/triple appointment) I have the feeling that we have enough time to go through their problems and not feel overly rushed.
There's a general sense of appreciation that you feel from every consultation from the patient and that's usually because they feel that they've had their issues dealt with quickly and they feel really listened to.
The takeaway feeling from a clinic is that of satisfied patients and that has just brought more enjoyment to my workday. You leave work feeling like you have really achieved something that day but without that feeling of exhaustion that I was familiar with after long NHS shifts.
Dan, another of DocTap's confounders, is our IT man and he has created a very user-friendly computer system that makes documenting and creating letters/referrals very easy. The system is so easy to use that I think most people get to grips with it in the first session and it really saves so much time when doing the admin tasks. Tasks that are otherwise not favourably looked upon by most GP's!
The whole team is really nice too and we have a really supportive admin team who are always on hand via our instant message service. We all try to meet up every few months for a CPD evening organised by our very supportive clinical director, Dr Mark Jopling, where there is a talk usually given by a local consultant followed by some pizza! Unfortunately, a fair number of these have been cancelled in the past 2 years due to Covid-19 restrictions but we have one coming up in 2 weeks which I'm looking forward to!
One of the best things for me is the flexibility of work. Even though I usually work the same 4 day week now at Doctap, there is a lot of leeway here, for example, if I wanted to shorten a clinic or change location, then that can be easily accommodated.
There is no annual leave allowance per se and this gives me a lot of freedom and control over my work/life balance. If I want to take a 2 -3 week break, I can do that. If I want to take on some extra shifts to pay for that break that's also not a problem and we have a rolling list of shifts available on our portal that you can sign up to when you want via just a couple of simple clicks.
Could you explain to us how the pay works?
In general, you are paid per appointment that you do and there are additional payments for administrative tasks, such as sending results to a patient, reading consultant letters and answering responses or questions from patients. The pay is also slightly different during the week compared to working at the weekend which earns a higher rate.
As there are 4 patient appointments per hour, a full clinic on a weekday equates to £96/hour whereas at the weekend it is currently £116/hour. You can earn up to an extra 10% bonus on the daily total too if you manage to meet some of the targets which include sending the patient results in a timely manner and taking blood samples in your allocated appointment.
There is also a minimum hourly rate in case the clinics are not booked up, but this is less of an occurrence in the past 2 years in my experience as Doctap is becoming ever more popular with patients.
I automatically receive an email breakdown of all the work conducted in the past week, including the number of appointments done at each clinic, additional tasks I've done and the bonus payment amount and we are then paid usually on that same day.
My work at Doctap is regarded as self-employment for tax purposes and so I need to file an annual tax return for which I get the assistance of an accountant. The weekly pay emails from Doctap are very helpful for this and it's really not been difficult to manage the finances, even if you've been on a payroll previously.
Finally, do you have any advice for GP's considering working with DocTap?
Firstly, I would say do it! I really enjoy working for Doctap and over last the 4 years I've encouraged a few of my friends to join too. I'm fairly confident that they will have the same positive outlook of the company as I do.
If you are a GP and have been thinking about a slightly different challenge to what you have been used to or maybe you're looking to have a more flexible work option to do outside of your regular job, then I would definitely come and try a shift. We have a really nice bunch of GP's working for us and we are always happy to have more like-minded people join our team and our WhatsApp group!
I'll be at the next evening CPD event so come and say "Hi" if you do join. Just try not to catch me with a slice of Pepperoni passion in my mouth!
Interested in working for DocTap?
If Dr Amish Sunny Patel's work with DocTap sounds interesting to you, you can click this link to find out more about the role and to register your interest.
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