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13. Dr Richard Fieldhouse

The voice of GP locums

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Dr Richard Fieldhouse comes in at number 13 in the 2013 Pulse Power 50 - a new entry.

Nominated for his ‘unrelenting support’, ‘tenacity and creativity’, and as a ‘model of leadership’, Dr Fieldhouse holds onto his spot as the face of the sessional doctor for another year.

He currently works as a freelance GP in West Sussex, clinical lead for Coastal West Sussex CCG and is the clinical director of Pallant Medical Chambers.

Amid practice cut-backs, higher superannuation costs and reduced discretionary payments: 2013 was arguably the toughest year yet for locums, but the long-standing chief executive of the National Association for Sessional GPs has pursued fair terms for members.

‘Locums are, on their own, an underused and isolated sector of the GP workforce,’ he says. ‘But we represent a quarter of the profession, and patients need us to be as well-qualified as any other GP - we just need to connect with one another.’

This year Dr Fieldhouse’s ‘chambers’ model has been nationally recognised as the industry standard. As burnout pressures hit the profession hard, locum networks have become a credible alternative to partnership for some.

Dr Fieldhouse reports that almost all of the new applicants to his chambers tend to be former or retired partners. ‘It’s been the biggest year for Pallant to date,’ Dr Fieldhouse reported. ‘Two years ago we were struggling to operate but now it’s humming. We have so much extra capacity, and morale is brilliant - the chambers has really taken flight.’

He also reports a surge of enthusiasm for freelancing amongst trainees who feel disillusioned with the partnership model due to the rise in workload.

‘So many partners are now working 8am until 9pm,’ he said. ‘They’re heroes.’

While partners struggle with long hours, Dr Fieldhouse highlights that the big challenges ahead for the locum workforce include meeting revalidation standards, and supporting practices if another flu pandemic hits the UK this winter.

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