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PCTs cut locum GP cover to save costs

PCTs have removed all locum cover to APMS providers as part of a cost-cutting blitz that LMC leaders warn could lead to an exodus of salaried GPs.

The move, implemented by three PCTs in Kent, means APMS contractors are no longer being offered discretionary funding to bring in locums to cover staffing absences bought on by sick leave or maternity.

As a result, LMC leaders say contractors will be forced to offer poorer terms to salaried GPs, and have warned that services to patients could suffer as GPs desert their posts to seek better terms elsewhere.

LMCs say the move by NHS Kent and Medway cluster, which encompasses NHS West Kent, NHS Eastern and Coastal Kent and NHS Medway, have been made without consultation with local GPs. 

A spokeswoman for Kent LMC said: ‘If you stop paying the contract holder, they're feeling that pressure on their cost, and so they may then seek to pass that on in the terms and conditions. So they're perhaps not going to reimburse people as much when they're on sick leave or maternity leave.'

‘Our argument has been we want to make sure we are offering a high quality service to patients and want the best GPs. If the terms and conditions are being chipped away at, are you going to get the best GPs?'

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘It would be foolish of PCTs to do that. A practice needs to be treated fairly. We have been assured that there would be no cuts frontline that are delivering the service. You have to maintain the investment in people.'

A spokesman for the PCTs said: ‘NHS Kent and Medway have not introduced a policy to remove the payment locum expenses to APMS contractors, rather we are observing and applying the existing terms of these contracts. We have now stopped making discretionary payments for locum cover that are outside the terms of APMS contracts.'