Who are you?
I’m Dr Holly Grimes, a Salaried GP in Cambridge. I was part of the first cohort of the scheme and completed my GP Fellowship in 2022.
Can you describe your experience of the GP Fellowship?
I found the fellowship to be an invaluable experience. I had two maternity leaves in quick succession during my ST3 ‘year’ and CCT’d just a few months after the end of my second maternity leave. I felt that I had become left behind by my peer group and was quite isolated at the point at which I CCT’d. I also felt out of date and out of touch having done very little clinical work over the previous 3 years, although I had been involved in the local first five group which was certainly a help. I CCT’d in February 2020 and started working as a salaried GP in March 2020 just as covid hit, which was a very challenging and lonely time to be a GP, particularly a newly qualified one. The prospect of starting the Fellowship in the August was a real beacon of hope.
The fellowship teaching sessions were all excellent and covered a wide variety of topics, including plenty of things that I wouldn’t have chosen myself but which have still been very useful and educational. I really liked the mix of clinical and non-clinical sessions. The small group peer support sessions were very helpful, particularly at such a lonely time in General Practice. It was such a useful forum to discuss working arrangements, CPD opportunities, difficult clinical cases, significant events and many other useful topics.
The majority of the teaching sessions were on Zoom, out of necessity. This has had its advantages in terms of ease of attending and has been a useful medium. However it was really lovely to attend the in-person session and I think the new schedule of 2:1 virtual and in-person sessions is ideal.
The independent CPD time was incredibly useful, I really appreciated having the autonomy to design a programme that worked for my interests. I did find myself at a bit of a loose end with some of it in the first year as it was at the height of the pandemic and opportunities were limited. However, I used it for online courses and e-learning around my areas of special interest or educational need, and that was still a valuable use of time.
I was able to make really constructive use of my CPD time over the second year, due in part to the introduction of the £400 study budget and also the ‘directory’ which suggested clinical opportunities. In the end, I set-up my own clinical placement by approaching the Operations Manager of the Women’s Health Division at CUH. She was very positive about me doing a placement in gynae clinics and arranged a timetable of clinics for me to attend (one a week for 16 weeks). My practice were very happy to facilitate my attendance at this placement and I found it very useful and interesting both from clinical and networking perspectives. I also used my CPD time to complete courses in the menopause and sexual health.
I also found the fellowship mentoring to be helpful. It is so useful to have protected time to be able to talk to a senior colleague about complicated cases or work-related issues. I also very much appreciated the support of the Training Hub Fellowship Lead when I was making some difficult career decisions.
What was the best thing about your fellowship?
We had a teaching session on being a portfolio GP which has had a significant impact on my career. The speaker worked as a specialty doctor at iCaSH alongside being a GP. This was something I had aspired to do for a long time. Through her, I made contact with the iCaSH clinical lead and initially discussed with her about the possibility of doing my clinical placement there. The consultant was supportive of this, but also explained that they were currently recruiting an extra speciality doctor. I applied for the post and got it, and now I work 2 sessions per week as a specialty doctor at iCaSH. Without the portfolio GP teaching session I don’t think I would have been in the right place at the right time to access that opportunity.
I am very grateful to CPTH and my practice for the fellowship opportunity and I would highly recommend it to other new GPs.
In a nutshell, why would you recommend the programme to others?
- The independent CPD time is incredibly useful
- Suggested clinical placements and study budget
- In-practice mentoring is really helpful – it has been useful to have regular protected time to be able to talk to a senior colleague about complicated cases or work-related issues
- Monthly teaching sessions are excellent, a great mix of clinical and non-clinical sessions