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Nine in ten GP practices struggle to find locums

Almost 90% of GP practices are struggling to find locums to cover shifts amid growing pressures on the workforce, the BMA has said.

Its survey of almost 3,000 GP practices also showed that just one in ten GP practices in England is able to get by without locum cover.

The GPC said the fact that the ‘vast majority’ of GPs practices are ‘having to rely routinely on temporary cover’ was adding to growing evidence of the pressures that general practice is under, calling on the Government to act.

Key findings of the survey of 2,814 GP practices included:

  • Almost half of practices (46%) ‘frequently’ struggle to find locums, and a further 40% struggle ‘occassionally’;
  • In the worst affected areas - the South and the South West - 61% and 57% of practices, respectively, frequently struggle with filling locum shifts;
  • Only 10% of practices say they cope without locums, although in some regions this was even fewer (in the South only 5% cope and in the West Midlands the figure was only 6%).

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said that the situation was likely to negatively impact on patients.

He said that ’increasingly GP practices are facing longer term vacancies because of the recruitment crisis gripping general practice’ and if ’a GP locum cannot be found in these situations many practices struggle to offer enough appointments to meet their patients’ needs’.

Dr Nagpaul said: ’These results show that many GP practices are struggling to find cover to plug the staffing gaps they face and that the vast majority are having to rely routinely on temporary cover.

’In this climate, it is clear there are no longer enough GP locums to cover the widening gaps in the GP workforce. This is undoubtedly adding to the incredible pressure on GP services which has left it in a state of emergency and struggling to provide even basic care to patients.

‘The Government needs to begin addressing this crisis and deliver its promised support package for general practice. We need a long term, well financed plan to prevent GP services from collapsing.’

GP practice demand for doctors is rising faster than the workforce

Dr chaand nagpaul 3x2

Dr chaand nagpaul 3x2

Dr Nagpaul warned that the worrying findings come as last year more than 600 GP trainee places were unfilled, and as more than a third of GPs are estimated to be considering retirement in the next five years.

This year to date, Health Education England has seen a slight improvement in GP recruitment, but still 30% of training places are unfilled after the first round.

The news comes as a Pulse investigation last month revealed that the Government is on course for failing to attract even half of the 5,000 extra GPs it promised by 2020,

At the time, the GPC reacted to Pulse’s analysis, stating that it showed the Government’s pledge to be ‘wholly unrealistic’.



Readers' comments (12)

  • Comrades are ditching the country.

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  • We'll simply have to decline the requests for appointments and point them to A&E. Shame.

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  • pay them properly and you may just get it. I want to work but the peanut rate and 50% tax forces me to stay at home and work minimum hours to pay mortgage. Pathetic!!

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  • The only answers
    1) ditch the contract comrades
    If not
    2) ditch the profession comrades
    If not
    3) ditch the country comrades

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  • My last locum requirement took 18 odd locum agencies and 3 days of chasing to get a locum for an afternoon - 7 hours of my life I'll never get back. £400+ for 3 hours (very good locum they were too), but doesn't bode well should I get longer term sickness.

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  • I think there are certain factors to consider:
    1. Yes, there is a shortage of GPs but on the other hand there is a surplus of locums with more moving out from salaried and partnership posts.
    2.Locums also choose where they work and they usually get a raw deal with some still earning £70 p/h while the Agencies charge 95-120 p/h.
    3. Locums need respect and treatment as equals and they don't like being pushed around so respecting them as professionals helps.
    It is easy to get a GP Locum if you treat them with respect and even negotiate with the Recruitment agency to pay them higher rate by reducing their margin. Most of the Agencies are willing to do that if they know they will have a locum for longer term working for them and a client happy to take the doctor on.
    Personally, I have been running the Practice with an additional locum for 3-5 sessions weekly for the last 4 years and no problems except at holiday time when it indeed can be difficult.

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  • Just send them to a/e or wic if you cannot service your practice list. Do not expect NHSE to allow u to close your list.

    Now you know unplanned admissions DES failed. I see a new DES - 5min appts for 50p @ practice list--- haa,haa, haa,

    Mr Hunt and nhs managers ignoring the basics - there are no GPs and soon our JDs will leave the NHS/Uk. Good luck to JDs for strike tomorrow.

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  • Interesting article in the daily mirror about a medical school lecturer who took a photo of his students in a class after asking them to raise their hands if they intended to "ditch the country based on the new junior Doctor contract"
    A staggering number of students raised their hands, and these aren't even qualified doctors yet!!

    It seems the word is out. I used to post "ditch the country comrades" for a joke several months ago in response to another poster who used to regularly write "ditch the contract comrades"

    It seems this is no longer a joke! People are fleeing England, and people who cannot even leave yet are already planning their escape.

    Surely Sanjeev Juneja even you with your stoic belief in the system you serve proudly and with such dedication, can see the writing on the wall!!

    It's over, finito, au revoir, bon soir!!


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  • I am an Aust GP, and have been working as a locum GP in UK (due to family reasons).
    In Australia a locum is valued as they HELP OUT. Here they are often derided by the other Drs, staff and patients!!.
    Plus... how can a Locum be expected to work at at 10 minutely time slots. If the principal does that... OK... . However how as a locum can I be expected to give high quality care in 10 minutes---As a locum I do not know the patient at all, the practice protocols differ, I do not know the local referral patterns, often the computer notes do not reflect the current status of the patient (i have seen major diagnoses meds, allergies etc etc missing from the summary page, recent consultations often do not explain why a test was being done, the notes are full of flu vaccinations from the last 100 yrs,etc etc.
    How can I have the time reassuring the patient, explaining the diagnosis, treatment and management plans, safety net, address their ideas concers and expectations, etc??
    So I was initially keen to locum here..., but now I hate it. The system is dreadful. I am happy too leave it. A shame.

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  • This alleged government of delusional imbecilic clowns is leading the English NHS to disaster
    Can they really believe they will ever be forgiven?
    Watch out you contemptible pack of degenerate liars.......

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