Welsh GP locums will have to join new register to access state-backed indemnity scheme
Welsh GP locums will be required to sign up to a new country-wide GP locum register from April in order to access the state-backed indemnity scheme.
The new register, set to be introduced from next month, will help practices source cover, and provide the Government with a greater understanding of the locum market, according to health minister Vaughan Gething.
But the BMA warned the new scheme will only 'increase the bureaucratic hurdles', and called the link to the indemnity scheme 'completely unacceptable'.
The register will be available to practices and health boards searching for locum cover, and should enable the Government to support the 'wider career aspirations and development needs’ of GP locums, according to Mr Gething.
RCGP Wales co-chair Dr Mair Hopkin said the register would be a ‘positive step forward’ in helping to ease the strain on the GP workforce and making it easier for practices to find available locums in their area.
Dr Hopkin said: ‘All too often GP practices struggle to recruit locum GPs when they need them most.
‘Not only does this mean that workload for other GPs in the practice increases, leading to high levels of stress and professional burnout, but unavoidably this also has a knock-on impact for patients who struggle to get timely appointments with their local practice.
‘We also hope that the creation of the register will provide support to locum GPs working across Wales, who we know all too often can feel professionally isolated.’
However, BMA GP Committee UK sessional subcommittee chair Dr Zoe Norris said she is 'concerned' about the announcement, as it will 'increase the bureaucratic hurdles for locum GPs who are supporting practices and health boards in Wales'.
She said: 'The National Performers List exists already for all GPs, and this attempt to devise a separate list looks like the beginnings of controlling where and how locums work. Specifically, the link to the state-backed indemnity scheme is completely unacceptable.
'Across the whole of the UK, locum GPs are stabilising a thinly stretched NHS, which desperately needs more funding and support. Many practices are reliant on locums to keep their doors open, and any attempt by any UK government to target this group will end badly for patients.'
North Wales LMC co-treasurer Dr Eamonn Jessup - who regularly works as a locum - welcomed the move, adding that he hoped any ‘significant paperwork hurdles’ in the sign-up process could be avoided.
Dr Jessup said: ‘The proportion of those in primary care who work as locums is rising year on year and unless a way is developed to be able to find the cohort of young locum doctors and find out why they are reluctant to be substantive GPs then we cannot hope to start to increase the numbers working in partner or salaried appointments.
‘The tricky bit will be to make jobs appealing enough that GPs working as locums will become partners, but that does really have to happen soon.’
He added: ‘Locums should already be on their own region’s performers list and filtering out the locums will hopefully be a straightforward job without any further significant paperwork hurdles.’
The state-backed GP indemnity scheme in Wales is due to be introduced from 1 April and will cover clinical negligence liabilities for all staff providing primary medical services - including salaried and locum GPs.
In England an NHS-backed indemnity scheme is also being brought in for GPs and all practice staff from April - and will be paid for on top of increases to GPs' core GMS contract funding.