Three out of four practices are finding it harder to book locum cover this year, with some turning to salaried GPs to cover partners' commissioning duties, according to an LMC survey.
Devon LMC quizzed 58 practice managers and locum GPs on their experience of locum availability over recent months, and found 40% believed booking locums was ‘harder' and 33% ‘much harder'.
Not a single respondent said that booking locums had become any easier.
Last month Pulse revealed agencies in some areas were now charging practices £160 an hour for locums.
Practices in Devon reported that filling sessions at short notice had become particularly difficult – with 86% of respondents saying that finding cover for sick leave was harder, compared with just 58% for LMC duties. One respondent said a practice had had to employ a salaried GP to cover a partner's commissioning duties.
Another added: ‘I have been working in general practice for seven and a half years and this is the hardest it has ever been.'
Dr David Jenner, a GP in Cullompton, Devon, said: ‘The call on commissioning groups is requiring more people to take time out of surgery to do commissioning activities, and increasingly what we are beginning to see is a bit of a run to the door because of the threat of pensions and the healthcare reforms.'