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GP partners to continue offering less locum work

Exclusive Almost 70% of GP partners say they will be offering less locum work over the next few months than pre-Covid levels, a Pulse survey has revealed.

The survey of 378 GP partners found that 28% said they would not be offering any locum work for the next few months, while only 8% said they would be offering more than pre-Covid levels.

It comes as NHS England has said locum GPs should be offered ‘highly flexible’ salaried roles in a bid to bring them into the substantive GP workforce.

Pulse has previously reported that locums have been plunged into financial difficulties due to practices stopping the use of locums during the pandemic.

GP partners told Pulse they had been able to recruit salaried doctors, while others said that telephone triage had lessened the need for locums.

But locum GP leaders said that many locums feel ‘hard done by’, having loyally supported practices in the past.

The survey, which took place in June, asked GP partners whether they were planning to reinstate the use of locums, with 23% saying they would be offering ‘much less’, 16% saying ‘a bit less’ and 22% estimating it would be to similar levels.

Pulse revealed in May that locum GPs had been forced to claim state benefits after struggling to find work during the pandemic, claiming that the reduction in patient demand at the start of the pandemic meant practices were less willing to use them.

This latest survey suggests that despite patient demand increasing, GP partners are not expecting to increase their use of locums.

Dr Tim Bates, a partner in Surrey, said: ‘One positive – the locum market and urgent treatment centre wages were killing the recruitment market. The tide may be turning as locum agencies are now offering us salaried sessional GPs.’

Dr Alison Nice, a GP partner in Buckinghamshire, said: ‘We are now recruiting salaried doctors.’

Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chair of the National Association of Sessional GPs, said: ‘We’ve seen a lot of locums become salaried GPs these last few months, so I expect a lot more practices will be planning to spend a lot less on locums going forward, because they’ll be paying a lot more on employed salaried GPs.’

He added that this has had an effect on locum GPs: ‘Our own surveys and feedback has revealed many locums feeling really hard done by by a few practices who they’d loyally supported for many years, yet cancelled all work going forwards, or some slashing agreed rates, with many locums being surveyed saying that they want more support going forwards.’

The Pulse survey was conducted between 5 and 9 June, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 31 questions asked covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on one issue. A total of 378 GP partners answered these questions. The survey was advertised to our readers via our website and email newsletter, with a prize draw for £100 John Lewis vouchers as an incentive to complete the survey.

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