By Laura Passi
GP leaders claim a combination of worsening morale and the increasing amount of cover needed for partners taking on commissioning duties is leading to a 'dire' shortage of locum GPs in some parts of England.
LMC leaders have reported a marked decline in the number of available GP locums in recent months, with one area estimating a fall of up to 50%.
It comes despite a recent RCGP report finding that a 'disproportionate' number of newly qualified GPs remained as locums or salaried GPs five years after finishing training.
Dr Harry Yoxall, medical secretary of Somerset LMC, said he believed a recurrent seasonal problem had been made worse by an increase in the number of older GPs leaving the profession, and that the number of available locums had fallen by half.
He said: 'Part of the problem is that older GPs are tending to retire and stop now. Locums feel more and more constrained by the regulation, they're going to have to undergo revalidation, and all the other requirements.'
'They begin to think actually, instead of being able to do couple of sessions a week to keep their hand in, it's going to cost so much to do that and be such a hassle, it's not worth it.'
‘To some extent I think people are thinking, "I've made it, I've got to 60, I'm the last of the generation who can take the pension and go, just let me out of here". Which is very sad but is certainly a feeling I do hear expressed.'
The Somerset GP Locums agency reports they have half the number of GPs available as they had last year, with demand outstripping supply by 100 sessions a month.
Dr Charlie Daniels a GP in Devon, told Pulse that the NHS reforms and plans for GP commissioning had contributed to shortages. Pulse reported recently that the NHS reforms were likely to increase the demand for locums who will be required to provide cover for GPs taking on consortium duties.
Dr Daniels said: 'It's quite a dire shortage. It's almost impossible to get locums, we use locums a lot because myself and another GP in the practice are involved in commissioning work . But actually you have to really book up months in advance to try and get one.'
'Commissioning already has [caused an increase in demand for locums] locally, because we have got quite a few people involved in commissioning, going to meetings and things and the biggest complaint is lack of locums to cover the work back at base. It will make the problem worse.'
Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chief executive of the National Association of Sessional GPs, said consortium work would drastically increase demand for locums.
'In our consortium alone there will be at least 15 GPs a week taking at least one day off to work for the consortia. That's a shed load of locum work, that's about six or seven whole time equivalent locums to cover all of that. So yes it will get worse.'
Story updated 11:49Lack of locum GPs is a major complaint