GP locums have been asked to consider reductions in their expected hourly rate amid a reduction in available roles, in part due to the increase in ARRS staff.
One agency said that requests for GP locums within primary care settings ‘have reduced since the summer’ with ‘various new ARRS roles coming to the forefront at surgeries’, and asked GPs to consider reducing their rates to secure work.
In an email exchange posted on X, locums were reassured the request was no reflection on performance.
One email said: ‘I was wondering if you would consider a reduction in your expected hourly rate. This in no way reflects our thoughts on the quality of your work, it is simply trying to be the first agency our clients come to, should they need GP cover over the coming months.’
GPs and experts told Pulse that this is because practices are struggling to pay for locums due to insufficient funding, and that the use of GP locums in surgeries has significantly reduced.
One GP told Pulse that locum work has ‘literally disappeared overnight’ and that after four years as full-time locum they have had to contact a charity for financial assistance.
They said they felt this is ‘because of the additional role recruitment scheme which has seen general practice flooded with ANP/ACP/PAs resulting in no need for highly qualified doctors’.
National Association of Sessional GPs chair Dr Richard Fieldhouse told Pulse: ‘There are definitely areas where locums are not being valued and instead, they are being supplanted by other types of roles.
‘We talk about continuity of care and the role of the GP, and how important that relationship is. And yet the profession is being undermined.
‘In places where locums are able to value themselves, it works great, but sadly there is a lot of places where the mindset is off.
‘GP practices need to think that when they are hiring a GP that is an investment in their future workforce.
‘It’s a combination of the locums being isolated and a lack of respect and investment in this really core part of the workforce.’
However, he said that normally in January and September there seems to be less demands for locums.
He added: ‘I think the agencies are suffering too because there’s actually not that much demand and practices are using other roles.’
Dr Steve Taylor, GP spokesperson for the Doctors’ Association, said that funding into primary care has been funnelled into PCNs and ARRS roles rather than to practices, resulting in less money to pay for locums.
He told Pulse: ‘I am hearing more reports of GP locums finding it harder to get work. This is at a time when the work in general practice is increasing and the number of GPs lower than ever.
‘The only conclusion is that there is not enough money in practices to pay for locums. Funding into primary care has been funnelled into PCNs and ARRS roles rather than to practices.
‘Costs are rising and practices haven’t got the funding. The UK needs GPs of all types and this together with falling numbers of partners, salaried GPs and now restricted work for locum GPs is a sad sign of the major issues.’
Ruth Hennessey, recruitment consultant at the GP Locum Agency, said that there has been a 60% drop in usage of locums by GP surgeries.
She said: ‘I suspect this agency feels they would encourage practices to book locums if they reduce their rates. In order to do so they will need their GPs working for them to reduce to keep their business afloat.
‘However, the bottom line is practices aren’t needing locums and haven’t seemed to for the last three months.
‘This year it’s been very quiet, worryingly quiet, and I would say there has been a 60% approximately drop in usage. So yes, locums are struggling to find work, as we are and probably every other agency out there.’
In June, a third of locum GPs said increasing their rates was a ‘top priority’ this year, according to the National Association of Sessional GPs (NASGP) 2023 survey.
Average GP locum day rates in England currently range from £600 to £850, latest data shows, with fees for 2023 rising by 2% compared with last year.