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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Being a locum GP is fascinating

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As a young teenager, I remember checking in to my GP surgery to discuss a sore throat and being told that I was due to be seen by the locum GP. ‘Oh’, I thought to myself, ‘I’m getting a doctor who can’t get a job.’ Imagine my surprise then, to find myself jobless at the end of GP training in August and selling my wares to the highest bidder, or any practice which promises cake.

Locumming, so I have heard, used to be the working equivalent of the sickly child at school who never got picked either  for sports teams or up at the end of the day by their parents. Work was hard to come by, and there was a silent consensus that proper general practice was within partnerships or salaried positions.

Now, it seems more and more GPs are choosing to work on a sessional basis. The pros and cons of being a locum are generally obvious – the work is more flexible, varied and less bureaucratic but misses out on continuity, stability and involvement with running a practice.

I’ve worked at 13 separate surgeries in the last few months, and all have been supportive and welcoming.

Personally, I have found the last few months as a new locum GP fascinating. I’ve been able to work in single-handed surgeries, huge multi-site mega-practices and even Newton Abbot. Each practice comes with its own way of running routine and duty services, prescriptions, phone-calls, visits and everything else. Whilst this takes a little getting used to, it has been hugely beneficial to experience different ways of working and seeing what works and what doesn’t. I often wonder how easy it must be to become ‘stuck’ in a way of working as a practice and whether locums have a role to play in feeding back about different systems. What with seven-day GP services and the increased role of practice co-operation and federation, perhaps sessional GPs can bring something to the table.

In Devon locum GPs are fortunate that there is a lot of work at the moment, and therefore some continuity is possible. This is crucial for continued development and job satisfaction, and perhaps the main drawback to locum work I have found so far is missing out on longer-term patient management. I’ve worked at 13 separate surgeries in the last few months, and all have been supportive and welcoming. I had heard horror stories of turning up to practices to be presented with a morning’s 38 patient surgery and some roof-tiling to replace but I’m pleased to say that so far every practice has been a pleasure to work for. I miss getting to know a team well, but enjoy meeting new GPs and practice staff and putting faces to names. And there are some phenomenal bakers out there.

All in all then, expect to find me pestering you for work for the near future. There are simple pleasures to be had in meeting new people and seeing new patients. Just tell me in advance if I need to bring a stepladder.

Dr Danny Chapman is a locum GP in east and south Devon

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Readers' comments (9)

  • Wow! You must be lucky. I have been locuming for almost a year now and most surgeries are on black alert. Low morale, unsupported staff, crazy and unnecessary demand... in other words most surgeries are drowning otherwise they wouldnt need a locum on a regular basis.

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  • Ditto-It is locum era for some time now! How do you deal with appraisal/re validation side of things? Thanks for advice.

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  • It is not all gloom being a locum. A friend of mine GP arrived
    late for his locum session. When he arrived after a long
    drive in M4 , he noticed a big queue of patients waiting outside the surgery. It is those days, when there is no appointment system or mobile phone. The patients won't let him go to the front of the queue, asking him to go back to join the queue as they felt that he is a patient trying to jump the queue.
    Finally the reception staff rescued him in time.

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  • Locums are needed. But so are partners and salaried. All different and key.

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  • What will become of locums when most or all of the general practices have collapsed due to nobody wanting to be a GP partner (or salaried GP)? Whether employed directly by the NHS or the private sector, expect no job satisfaction, a life of misery and poor pay.

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  • "fascinating" and general practice in one sentence!Perhaps the tide is beginning to turn after all

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  • @|Anonymous | GP Partner|10 Nov 2015 7:46pm

    If you got out more you would know that locums get paid a lot more than you and will continue to have more job satisfaction than a parnter in any type of system. If only partners stopped self harming by picking up so much slack the system would have already collapsed and the healing would have started.

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  • GP is fascinating?

    you must be signing too many skydiving forms.

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  • Those who listened to the Radio 4 programme might be forgiven to see locums as a risk to good patient care. It does not have to be like this as testified by Dr Chapman
    Locum are now part of the workforce landscape and need to be valued as such. We need to provide support for revalidation of GPs in return for a level of commitment and continuity.

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