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GPs go forth

The great GP social media war

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It’s 5am. I’ve got the graveyard shift with my baby today. She’s up far too early but luckily, seems easily amused by the brightly green coloured telephone toy and is happily eating said toy. I do think she’s meant to put it next to her ears but I guess bright green means tasty in baby language. Maybe a career in ENT is out of the question for her.

A quick glance at Facebook shows an almighty row has erupted on social media about locum doctors, again.

We are a bitter lot, aren’t we? 

'These locums charge max rate but do min work,' says one disgruntled partner, 'They stick to their T&Cs and don’t do any more than that.'

Oh dear, this is prime bait for a flame war. Hopefully we’re all super mature and won’t exacerbate things further.

'Typical partner, wants more than they pay for. Why any locum would come back to spend time with someone with such a miserable attitude? No wonder they don’t want to do extra,' was the first reply, presumably a locum GP from Leicester.

It seems the declaration of war has been accepted - a fairly decent riposte, a bit too angry for my liking though.

'So you’re upset because the person you hired to do a job actually turned up and did their job according to what you agreed?' responds someone from Nottingham. A delicious response, just the right amount of sarcasm balanced by simple fact.

'When things were good eight years ago, locum pay was 30% less than now, but partners earned 25% more,' pointed out one Cumbrian locum. Is that figure true? Yes, that hardly seems fair now, does it? I had heard of the bad old days (or good, depending on your viewpoint) – 100 plus applicants for each partnership. Partners often led salaried GPs up the garden path, getting them to do much extra work for the hope of a partnership. If I was Buddhist I’d call that Karma.

'If you wanted more work than what was agreed, you should have agreed it!' one GP from London wrote. 'I don’t expect my plumber to sort out my central heating for free once he’s fixed the leak in the bathroom.' Quite right too. And why should anyone begrudge charging extra for extra work? Is it not the partner who is being unreasonable for an expectation of extra work above what has been agreed? Don’t we charge for non NHS work like letters and medical reports so on? Surely by an extension of the partner logic, if we get paid to do another job we should do extras like this for free?

'Come on guys, this kind of language divides us as a profession', responds an East Anglia GP. No thread would be complete without the let's all be friends pacifist. I can empathise. There is a feeling of safety to dipping your head under sand and hoping everyone will kiss and make up.

'If partners are charged too much there won’t be any partners left, and the NHS won’t survive without partners', a partner from Oxford writes. Well, you can’t argue with that logic. The likelihood of Jeremy Hunt paying market rates for a doctor if all partners resigned is probably lower than Donald Trump writing a love sonnet about a Muslim Mexican woman.  

What I can say? We are a bitter lot, aren’t we? Throw a few thousand GPs onto a single social media group and it is a wonder no physical wars or nuclear weapons have been fired. Too many alphas, not enough epsilons. We are tribal, judgemental, and inherently grumpy. The more I think about it, the less I am surprised so many health ministers hate us.

My conclusion? We all spend way too much time on Facebook.

The secret locum is a locum GP in northern England

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Readers' comments (3)

  • interesting review.

    One of the unofficial definitions of being a professional has always included the need to complete the job - i.e not working to the letter of a contract. Is that liable to abuse - yes. but shouldn't be to an excessive level( I now that's impossible to define).

    One of the crimes of the EWTD is that it introduced the concept of clocking on/off into medicine.
    It brought Doctors into line with other groups such as nurses but also stripped us of our professional ethos (and our claim to the moral high ground).

    The EWTD was also never affordable and has led to some of the economic issues we're now struggling with.

    I work harder in terms of hours then I ever did in hospital or Gp land. Nowhere near the pressure and am paid fairly for it though!
    But I promise you the hours and terms are often harder in the commercial world. If you work for an American company then expect even harder conditions!

    The lesson for all doctors is that moaning and destroying what you have now may end up meaning a replacement that may be worse.

    The whole MCP project is an attempt to get this to happen and get GPs to baste themselves and prepare themselves for the oven!

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  • There are bigger forces at work in health care than the intricacies of locum fees, partner pay and the work life balance of Drs. People are living longer and medicine is getting too expensive. Mean while social media exaggerates the importance of the opinions of those involved and has a tendency to create "opinion ghettos". I think facebook is toss to be honest. Here we are squabbling over how to divide a dwindling cake whilst the tsunami of history builds behind our backs waiting to sweep the whole system away.

    ...epic stuff indeed.

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  • Flexibility and rigid ness can and should work both ways. If one expects the other to be flexible, they should be willing to be flexible back. This is fine I'm long term positions/locums, but single sessions means the locum doing extra for nothing.

    If a partner expects a locum to do unpaid extra one day, they should expect them to ask for paid time off the following day.

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