Objective: This study aimed to investigate junior doctors' perception of general practice as a career.
Method: In-depth interviews with a purposive sample of 54 junior doctors were carried out.
Results: Three main criteria were identified: clinical content of practice, lifestyle, and organizational context of practice. Clinical content was most highly valued, but was recognized to conflict with lifestyle. Compared with hospital medicine, general practice was associated with inferior clinical content but superior lifestyle. Views on organizational context were more equivocal. Choice of general practice as a career was often based on negative judgements.
Conclusions: Junior doctors' perceptions of general practice are expressions of a hospital-centric culture. Criteria for career choice are diffuse and complex. There was no evidence that the 1990 GP Contract deterred recruitment. The compromise between intrinsic satisfaction and lifestyle may be significant for GP morale.