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Building your WiseGP career: The NIHR In Practice fellowship scheme

The NIHR In Practice Fellowship (IPF) scheme is open to all qualified GPs, General Dental Practitioners and Community Dentists taking their first steps in formal research training. Fellows are paid at clinical salary rates to undertake predoctoral (e.g. Masters degree) research training.

But at a time when General Practice is chronically understaffed, is it right to take ‘time out’ for research? Do some consider primary care research to be an ‘unaffordable luxury’?

At WiseGP, we would argue that GP research is a necessity, not a luxury, offering multiple benefits for patients, individual GPs and the profession as a whole. Here’s why we encourage you to take a closer look at the opportunities offered by the IPF scheme.

Enhancing your clinical skills: “every doctor a scientist and a scholar

First and foremost, research training enhances clinical practice. This is why the GMC recognises and requires medical training to support ‘the doctor as a scholar and scientist’

As a GP, you deliver safe, effective, tailored care to individual patients. WiseGP was established to recognise, support and promote the distinct knowledge work involved in everyday primary care clinical practice. Research training enhances knowledge work and so strengths your clinical skills.

Enhancing your professional practice

As a GP, you are also a consultant in primary care medicine – responsible for delivery of whole-person care to a community of patients. Your knowledge work skills extend beyond individual clinical decision-making to include designing and evaluating healthcare e.g. through Quality Improvement roles, and training the primary healthcare workforce (supervision and teaching roles). These are all part of the portfolio career path of General Practice, and roles that are championed and supported by the WiseGP programme. Research training can also enhance skills and confidence in the knowledge work of extended professional practice.

Improving the quality of healthcare

As a GP researcher, the scope of your role shifts again – to the knowledge work needed to deliver, transform and sustain primary care practice for a wider community – whether regional, national or international. Primary Care research is a vital part of continued delivery of safe, effective and equitable healthcare. Research training develops a community of GP researchers leading and driving clinically-informed primary care service development.

So have you thought about getting involved in research?

Tackling the myths that put some people off looking at research training

Some people worry that getting involved in research means giving up their clinical practice. The reality is exactly the opposite. We need clinician researchers, now more than ever, if we are to develop the evidence-base and scientific-informed models of practice needed to tackle the challenges facing modern healthcare. Clinical academics – included In Practice Fellows – are expected, and supported, to continue clinical work within their professional portfolio.

Others have told me that research isn’t for them because they ‘never enjoyed lab science’ at medical school, or they ‘hate statistics’. In reality, primary care research is much more diverse than those two areas of practice. Take a look at the GEMS library to get a flavour of the many types of research going on in primary care.

“I’ve missed the boat because I didn’t do an ACF” is perhaps one of the commonest misconceptions I hear. In Practice Fellowships are open to GPs at any career stage, and with no expectation that you have had prior formal research training.

The IPF scheme: who is it for

The IPF scheme looks to support GPs who want to make a difference in primary healthcare through the critical discovery creation and application of new knowledge.

You don’t have to have done any formal research training before an IPF. But you will need to show how your previous experience demonstrates your commitment to improving healthcare through scholarship. For example, you might describe your roles in leading quality improvement work, or leading local service delivery change – anything that demonstrates a commitment to the systematic use of data to drive change in understanding of/actions to address a problem

How to apply

Your fellowship must be hosted within a suitable academic department. So your first step is to get in touch with a suitable host. You can find a list of all academic departments on the SAPC website – most have an Ambassador, a contact person who can put you in touch with people who can help prepare your application.

You will need to describe a clear training plan for your two years – including an area of research that you will be involved in. Your host department will be able to help you with this.

And you need to tell a clear story of why you want to train in research – how it will help your professional career, and how you as a clinical researcher can make a difference in primary care.

Top Tips

So if you’re thinking about applying, here’s a few tips to get you started

  • Read up about the scheme. The 2022 application hasn’t opened yet but you can see all the details about last year’s here. And make sure you read my Chair’s report for tips on a good application.

  • Start writing your application NOW. If you’re not already discussing things with a department you might find it hard to get a strong application together for 2022. But you should still start that conversation now – even for the 2023 scheme. These things always take longer than you think.

  • Most important of all, START. Future general practice needs WiseGPs with the skills, confidence, experience and enthusiasm to modernise what we do.

Good luck!

Joanne Reeve

Joanne is the Founder & Leader of the WiseGP programme. She is current panel Chair for the IPF Programme


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