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Burnout sees more GPs resigning to become locums

Exclusive: A growing number of GPs are resigning from their practices to become locums mid-way through their careers because they are burning out from rising stress and workload, the head of the country's largest group of sessional GPs has claimed.

Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chief executive of the National Association of Sessional GPs – which represents 1,000 locum and salaried GPs - said mounting financial pressures and a desire to go ‘back to basics' was driving an increasing number of partners to resign.

Speaking to Pulse for this week's Big Interview, Dr Fieldhouse said more than 20 partners had joined his network of 70 GPs working from eight locum chambers in the south west of England.

It comes amid soaring demand for locums as partners devote time to commissioning work, with Pulse reporting in January the average cost of hiring locums had risen 9% in a year.

And one medical accountant said she had been approached by three salaried GP clients in the past month who wanted to become locums.  

Dr Fieldhouse, a GP in Chichester, said: ‘Unfortunately you have lots of GPs burning out.'

‘Over the last couple of years we have had 20 or so partners who have resigned from their local partnerships to join the chambers.'

Possible reasons for the shift included pressure from CCGs to make efficiency savings, ‘instability' caused by the NHS reforms and a desire for an improved work-life balance, he said: ‘Practices are finding it hard to actually get people to become partners because there is just so much change.'

Medical accountants said they had also noticed the trend. Rosemary Smith, senior partner at RS Medical Accountancy, said: ‘Salaried GPs are not getting paid like their partners but because they are still experiencing the politics side of general practice and the extra work in their surgeries, they are thinking they would be better off becoming a locum.

‘I have had three GPs contact me in a month'. 

Bob Senior, head of medical services at RSM Tenon, said while he was not aware of any partners having made the transition, a number had said they would like to: ‘GPs do say that locums have a better time of it as they don't have the stress.'

Dr Peter Swinyard, chair of the Family Doctor Association, said a number of his members had made the switch from partner to locum: ‘It isn't surprising when you can make more money from being a locum then from being a principal. The day job has become very hard and unrewarding'.

Click here to watch the Big Interview with Dr Richard Fieldhouse