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GP locum shortage prompts increases in costs

Exclusive The average cost of hiring GP locums has soared almost 9% in the past year across the UK, with much steeper rises in some areas, Pulse's survey shows.

Our poll of 250 practices found 70% had seen rates increase, with one in six seeing a jump of 20% or more. The findings follow reports of a growing locum shortage that has left some GP practices paying agencies double rates to cover shifts.

Pulse revealed last August that one practice in Warrington was charged £160 per hour by an agency, £70 more than the cost for an independent locum in the same area. The need for commissioning cover and difficulties in recruiting permanent staff have exacerbated the problem.

One practice in 10 responding to the survey said it had taken on regular locum cover to fill in for commissioning work, while a quarter said they were making increasing use of locums because of difficulty in replacing a partner or salaried GP.

Dr Paul Alford, a GP in Wandsworth, south-west London, said costs at his practice had risen by more than 20% over the last year. ‘Locums are very difficult to find,' he said. ‘GPs have a work-life balance to protect. Some times are just unpalatable for working, and everyone wants time off to spend with their children.

‘We've certainly felt that locums are more costly in holidays and at times of high need.'