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I didn’t know there were quite so many ‘non-GPs’ until I came to one of the Primary Healthcare Scientists (PHoCuS) group meetings back in 2012.  The national and regional Society for Academic Primary Care (SAPC) conferences have always been a great place for all researchers in primary care to meet and engage with each other’s work.  Being a researcher in primary care though clearly does not necessitate having a background as a GP and it has become increasingly apparent that there is a growing group of ‘non-GPs’ who want additional opportunities to network and to share experiences of working within primary care research from equally important perspectives of research management or methodology.

The PHoCuS group was set up in 2011 as a way of offering a single support scheme to this multidisciplinary group within SAPC and has been led by Christine Bond (Aberdeen) and Sandra Eldridge (Queen Mary).  Since this time, the group has grown considerably – initially hosting one annual meeting at the national SAPC conference to now organising a range of activities which are led by PHoCuS members.  These activities are designed to promote interdisciplinary engagement, to offer further opportunities for collaboration and are designed to be as inclusive as possible to meet the needs of this varied group. 

One of these activities is the organisation of regional conference meetings which I (Southampton), Jenni Burt (Cambridge), Sarah Knowles (Manchester) and Barbara Nicholl (Glasgow) are currently working on.  Jenni Burt and Barbara Nicholl held our very first regional meetings in Madingley and Scotland in January and I recently hosted a lunchtime meeting at the South West conference in Birmingham.  There’s been enthusiastic support by members for these regional meetings and members have put forward some suggestions for training and how the next PHoCuS meeting at national SAPC Oxford could be organised.  If you’re attending the national SAPC meeting this summer and are interested in meeting other non-GPs, keep an eye out for more details of the next PHoCuS group meetup on Twitter or at the conference itself!

Another activity which I’ve been involved in is the mentoring scheme – this time as its recipient!  PHoCUS set up this scheme in 2013 and has to date trained 7 mentors and provided support to 15 mentees.  I joined 6 months ago and have so far found it hugely beneficial.  Getting independent perspectives on my career aspirations and advice on how to enhance productivity has changed the way I approach my career development (for the better!).  I would strongly recommend this scheme to anyone who is seeking supportive and positive input regarding careers and professional development from a senior academic.

If you’re interested in hearing more about the PHoCuS group, or to stay informed about our activities and opportunities, sign up to the mailing list ( or check our SAPC webpage for more information! Just log onto

Lily Lai

Research Fellow, University of Southampton