Worst summer ever for finding locums
The prolonged contract delays are contributing to the worst summer ever for locum availability and leaving GPs facing costs of up to £2,000 a week if they can find cover.
GPs around the UK say already acute locum shortages have been exacerbated by increasing demands for cover from GPs working for their PCO or undertaking appraisal.
Pressure from PCOs for practices to keep patient access in line with Government targets have also led to greater demand.
GPs also reported increased sickness absence and partnership disputes because of the uncertainty over the future of the profession caused by delays to the GMS contract.
The chronic shortages have left GPs struggling to take their summer holidays and unable to attend LMC meetings.
GPs in rural areas said they were finding it impossible to find locums to cover home
visits or out-of-hours work.
'It was bad last year. This year it's terrible,' said Dr
Simon Bradley, director of Avon LMC.
'There are more GPs in managerial roles in PCTs, while with every GP being appraised they lose another two surgeries. Partners are coming in on their half-days to do locums in their own practices,' he added.
Other LMCs said increased numbers of female doctors and a resultant jump in demand for maternity cover was also having an impact.
Dr Charles Zuckerman, secretary of Birmingham LMC, said shortages had led to a 20 per cent increase in rates to as much as £300 per day.
'It's getting harder to get them and more expensive, so it's costing people more to take holidays,' he said.
Rates of between £150 and £160 per session were cited by many GPs as the current norm.
Dr Bob Rosbottom, a GP in Dundee, said he had found getting cover for July almost impossible. 'All the locums tell us they are booked up well in advance and it's very difficult to get any at short notice,' he said.
'There's less room for manoeuvre between partners to cover each other as people are already working flat out.'
Locum agencies said it was a case of 'anything goes' in setting locum rates.
Lisa Pell, director of deputising agency Pioneer Recruitment, said many registrars had not been able to join supplementary lists because of delays in checking qualifications.
Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chair of the National Association of Non-Principals, said locums were adopting a 'siege mentality' because of problems with accreditation and this had a knock-on effect on rates.