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Almost one-fifth of GP sessions covered by locums in deprived areas

Nearly one in five GP sessions in England’s most deprived areas are covered by locum doctors, according to an analysis of official data.

Patients in the country’s most deprived areas are much more likely to be seen by locum GPs than those living in less deprived area, a BBC analysis of Health and Social Care Information Centre data showed.

It revealed that 18% of GPs working in NHS Bradford City CCG in September 2015 were locums, compared to a national average of 3.4%. This compared to the more affluent NHS Wokingham CCG's 0.9%.

Other areas with high deprivation and a high reliance on locums included Sandwell and West Birmingham (11.8%) in the Midlands and Barking and Dagenham (9%) in East London.

The analysis comes as GP practices in deprived areas have fought for years for increased funding in relation to other practices, arguing that this affects the workload.

But a review of the funding allocation formula is still ongoing, having stopped and started multiple times since 2007.

NHS Bradford City CCG said that 'locum GPs are trained to the same high standards as full-time GPs' and that 'where possible' they were taken on for longer periods of time to ensure continuity locally.

But a spokesperson added: 'We have a range of socio-economic challenges in Bradford. Doctors do have a choice over where to work and many choose to work in areas where demands may be less challenging... 

'Together with NHS England and Health Education England, we need a long-term plan to make general practice more attractive and train more GPs who want to work in Bradford.'

GP leaders blamed the high rate of locum use on the ongoing GP recruitment crisis, but said GPs in deprived areas found it a particularly difficult to replace GPs who leave.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'The current crisis in general practice and the shortage of GPs is having a major impact across the UK, with some practices, particularly those serving deprived populations, really struggling to recruit new GPs to replace those who leave.

'In order to maintain services to their patients these practices are using more GP locums, but whilst locums provide an essential and valuable service, they are not able to deliver the long term continuity of care that patients benefit from and which is the bedrock of good general practice.

He added that it was 'vital' for the Government in England, as well as in the devolved nations, to 'reverse the decade of underfunding that has led to this crisis and step up their efforts to tackle the GP recruitment and retention so that practices can recruit new GPs when they need to'.

The BBC’s data analysis discounted information from the South East of England because this was incomplete.

Readers' comments (18)

  • I would've put the percentage of locums much higher than that

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  • Yet again, statistics plucked from thin air! Look at the amount of GPs retiring, those refusing to take up partnerships and those leaving the country and THAT is the real number of how many locums are out there. You can name it what you want but this is a crisis if biblical proportions and nothing will keep it hidden for much longer.

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  • Sad fact, if you can't afford a full time gp you contain costs by having as many sessions that month as you can afford. This gives you the flexibility that allows survival but certainly it will never give you that proverbial work-life balance.

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  • Longer appointments would help!

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  • 'Deprived' areas = Patients with poor/no education, language barriers due to high immigration - both EU and non-EU, low social class, increased social issues/financial/drugs/alcohol, high unemployment, increased private letters and paperwork, increased ill health as a whole and disease including rare conditions not seen in other parts of the UK

    Reasons enough to explain why no one wants to work in such areas?

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  • GP partners in these deprived areas have enough funding to pay for their locums.

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  • Gp partners should pay more money.they want to save money.

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  • I would take my hat off to these locus, they do a marvellous job!

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  • someones gotta do it and looks like only locums will

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  • salaried 9.15- absolutely dot on. ALL Practices have money to pay locums depends how many sessions they can afford. Some don't have a choice as they just can't afford a second f/t gp. You'll probably say, greedy Principal wants to keep more for herself. Compare - a Practice 3500 had 3 f/t GPs and another can't afford a second one - that is the level of funding difference. It's difficult for a salaried to understand this because your Practice may not be sharing inside info with you but talk to them and they should be able to give you an idea of the real world.

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