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GP practices increasingly reliant on use of locum doctors, survey suggests

More GP practices are employing locums, with a 51% jump in the number of locum hours used by surgeries year-on-year, a survey by a locum agency has suggested.

Online locum provider RLocums, which surveyed its 4,000-strong membership finding that user practices booked an average of 128 hours of locum work in 2013/14, up from 84 hours in 2012/13.

The company also found that the average age of its locum GP workforce had declined, with the average age of new doctors registering falling from 39.8 in 2004 to 33.9 in 2014.

The site’s founder Dr Steve Leung, a GP in Leicester, said younger doctors were turning to locuming to retain a healthy work-life balance.

He said: ‘There’s increased flexibility, better work-life balance, better control of your work professionally. Newly qualified GPs now want a more flexible experience to try to work in a number of different practices before choosing somewhere to settle down.’

National Association of Sessional GPs CEO Dr Richard Fieldhouse said the findings were consistent with his anecdotal experience, which is that GPs increasingly want to see patients without having to deal with the ever-growing administrative burden of partnership.

He said: ‘It’s very depressing that GPs are now just totally fraught. It’s not good that being a partner isn’t as attractive as it used to be.’

It comes as a Pulse survey in 2013 found that the cost of using locums had spiralled as practices were struggling to fill GP vacancies.