In their own words: How locums cope with feelings of professional isolation
As temporary staff members who work across different practices, locum GPs face challenges when it comes to accessing support. Pulse’s first survey of locums reveals the tactics GPs deploy to avoid professional isolation.
‘I do a long-term locum at a practice so feel part of the team,’ a GP locum in Birmingham said.
Similarly, a locum in west London’s borough of Hammersmith and Fulham said: ‘I limit the number of different practices I work at so that I get to know my patients and colleagues.
‘I ask to sit in on practice meetings…. I’m never afraid to ask questions. I attend updates. I am joining a peer-to-peer support group.’
‘I go to seminars and workshops,’ said another locum, based in Suffolk. ‘I try to chat to partners employing me as a locum,’ they added.
For others, maintaining contact with other locums outside of the practices they are working at is key.
I ask to sit in on practice meetings…. I’m never afraid to ask questions
London-based locum GP
A locum GP based in Hywel Dda, Cardiff and Vale, and Rhondda Cynon Taf said: ‘We [locums] have a WhatsApp group and constantly message each other and arrange social get-togethers.’
‘Close contact with other locum colleagues, attending conferences and half-day training sessions frequently,’ were also important for a locum based in east and north Hertfordshire CCG.
Dr Hester Dunlop, a locum GP in Kirklees CCG, said: ‘Chambers is the best GP support system I have experienced in my whole career. Chambers are run to support members and practices by troubleshooting operational issues, allowing everyone to get on with the job.
Dr Dunlop said the chambers have regular face-to-face meetings for members for peer support and education, as well as a ‘robust support system’ for helping members with significant events and complaints.
A locum based in South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula CCG, also stressed the importance of speaking with others: ‘We have set up a study/support group, consisting of salaried GPs and locums who live close to each other.
Chambers is the best GP support system I have experienced in my whole career
Dr Hester Dunlop
‘Many of us have worked, or do work, together and we meet [regularly] to discuss issues, present information from courses we have been on and generally provide support.’
For one GP in Shropshire, working as a locum actually means they have more support than in previous roles.
‘I am far less isolated now than I ever was as a partner. I am well known in the community and now have more time to actually talk to people!
‘I also help organise our local sessional GP network, which helps to bring people together and inform them of what’s happening locally,’ they said.
But Dr Daniel Ellis, who is based in Merseyside and has been a locum for eight years, suggested it is not always possible to mitigate professional isolation.
‘I was isolated for four years in a job - I just got on with it,’ he said.
Source: The Pulse survey was launched on 25 September 2018, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 29 questions asked covered a wide range of GP locum topics, to avoid selection bias on one issue. The survey was advertised to our readers via our website and email newsletter, with a prize draw for £200 of John Lewis tokens as an incentive to complete the survey. Around 283 locum GPs responded to this survey.