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More than 80% of GP locums ‘cannot find work’, BMA survey finds

More than 80% of GP locums ‘cannot find work’, BMA survey finds

More than 80% of GP locums have reported that they ‘cannot find work’, a BMA survey has revealed.

A survey of 1,852 locum GPs in England found that that four out of five (84%) are struggling to find work and that more than 50% are ‘expecting to make changes’ to their careers ‘in the next year’ due to the employment crisis.

Over 70% of respondents blamed the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) ‘for GP unemployment’.

The BMA also said that many (33%) have already made ‘definite plans’ to change career and one-third of respondents (31%) who are planning for change said that ‘the lack of suitable shifts’ is ‘forcing them to leave the NHS entirely’.

Earlier this year Pulse revealed that GP locums are driving across England, staying in hotels overnight and driving up to four hours on a daily basis to get work amid a shortage of shifts available.

And this week a survey of RCGP members found that six out of 10 GPs looking for jobs ‘are struggling to find vacancies’, with the college also pointing to ARRS as a key factor leading to these results, as the scheme ‘has directed funding towards other roles in general practice’ and not to GPs.

A locum GP from Dorset told the BMA: ‘I sacrificed my life for the NHS and now I can’t even find a job because GPs are being replaced by cheaper staff.

‘I’ve explored countless options within the NHS to no avail so I’m taking up GCSE tutoring to make ends meet.

‘I’m a single mum with a child who has special needs and I thought if I studied hard, worked hard and dedicated myself to the NHS then I’d be able to provide for myself and my children.

‘But after nearly 30 years of service, I’ve been driven out of the NHS by a government scheme that blocks general practice from employing general practitioners – it’s maddening.’

A GP from London said that ‘almost overnight’ the work ‘dried up’ so they were forced to apply for salaried positions.

They added: ‘I ended up applying for nearly 30 positions, received only three interviews, and fortunately secured one job. Honestly, I feel lucky to have found a job, as I know many have not.

‘Who would have thought that becoming a doctor would lead to job insecurity and worries about meeting mortgage repayments?’

BMA sessional GP committee chair Dr Mark Steggles said that this is a ‘ridiculous situation’ where so many patients are being ‘denied the chance to see a GP’, even though there are GPs wanting to work and care for them.

He said: ‘On the one hand, we have thousands of GPs in England desperate to work more, but being driven into careers outside the NHS. On the other hand, patients in pain, needing care, are waiting record-breaking periods of time to see a GP.

‘It’s difficult to comprehend how the NHS – a health service once world-renowned – has reached this point where thousands of highly-skilled doctors are unable to find suitable work within it and patients are suffering as a result.’

It comes after GPC England chair Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer warned general practice has suddenly gone from a recruitment to an employment crisis, driven by the Government’s squeeze of practice finances.

Today, Dr Bramall-Stainer said: ‘We are in a ridiculous situation where GP practices cannot use government funding to hire GPs. We have made it clear to the government that this needs to change so we can have more GPs working in local practices.

‘We’re hearing lots of pre-election promises about increasing GP numbers, but the first challenge for the next government will be to find a way to keep the GPs we already have in the NHS. To run a bath, you first must put in the plug; this is basic workforce planning.’

Pulse reported that requests for GP locums within primary care settings ‘have reduced’ since last year with ‘various new ARRS roles coming to the forefront at surgeries’, and locums were asked to consider reducing their rates to secure work.

GPs also told Pulse there were concerns around ‘misleading’ wording used by some agencies that seemed to be pushing for ARRS staff to replace GP locums.

BMA survey results in full

  • 84% of respondents who want to work more sessions report wanting to work an additional 3.6 sessions on average – equivalent to nearly 2 more days’ work a week per person
  •  Respondents report that in 2022 on average they worked 5.8 sessions per week – nearly 3 days per week – which is 2.8 sessions more than they currently work – equivalent to more than a full additional day a week per person
  • The BMA asked about job availability and job suitability compared to two years ago. 91% of respondents told the BMA that work availability had decreased and 84% told us suitability had reduced even where jobs are available. The most common issues for sessions being unsuitable were insufficient remuneration, or available work being too far away.
  • Only 1% said work availability had increased and 3% said it had stayed the same – 6% were not sure. Regarding suitability, only 1% said suitability had increased and 8% said it had stayed the same – 8% were not sure.

Source: BMA



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

M A A Khan 21 June, 2024 9:10 am

Can anyone suggest a resource or WhatsApp/ telegram group where GP locums/ salaried GPs can discuss alternative pathways/ jobs for GPs in this predicament please?

Yes Man 21 June, 2024 9:13 am

Once all those lovely doctors taste the sweet nectar of work outside the NHS they ain’t never coming back baby!

Centreground Centreground 21 June, 2024 9:38 am

As a partner who realises the value of the depth of knowledge and cost effectiveness of GPs with ARRs who do have a place and to be utilised only to be used in their rightful roles and never to replace a GP which is a policy we have always followed I would say;
1.Get rid of self serving PCN CDs
2.Get rid of PCNs and PCN/ICB control over practices
3. Get back the highly trained doctors and common sense

Patricia Wildbore 21 June, 2024 10:06 am

I agree 100% with Centreground Centreground’s comments.
I would add that the breadth of knowledge required to be a GP is very undervalued which is why government feels we can be replaced with ARRS roles. The increase in secondary care referrals that I am sure is happening as a result of ARRS roles will bankrupt our toppling NhS
Lose PCNs and have GPs renamed as Consultant Generalista.!

J Smith 21 June, 2024 11:04 am

PCN needs to go, ARRS will disappear subsequently

Some Bloke 21 June, 2024 11:18 am

Centerground, we need your view represented in GPC and NHSE primary care “team”

Nicholas Sharvill 21 June, 2024 1:58 pm

What many won’t want to hear is that this is not a new situation. The gp.s in their 60′ now often had to apply for scores of jobs on lousy initial terms (50% shafe and be prepared to travel . The funding crisis plainly makes employing locums a poor option when the nhs will provide extra funding for a political quick fix in terms of numbers but icb.s,pcn.s and practices have all jumped at the cash. The profession itself might need to reflect on the blindingly obvious.

Not on your Nelly 21 June, 2024 2:54 pm

I think there needs to be some reflection on both sides. Though I know this is not for all GPs, but applications we have had from locums start with the sentence of what they won’t do. No visits. No scripts. No admin. Will only see 12 patients. But want a whole morning or full days pay for this privilege. I don’t see how this is value for money when they are charging 80 to 150 an hour. The only thing that most surgeries in this situation do is do the work themselves, or use cheaper people to do the smaller parts (the arrs staff who can do medication reviews, look at reconciliation of medications, do simple pre-booked consultations for simple problems) and then try and get on and do the rest themselves, Cheaper. The job gets done. There is no hassle. Worth thinking about if you are a locum. Again, not a generalisation but just my experience. I would like to see and hire locums who are able to cover a full GP and do everything I do well. However, haven’t seen one for a long time.

Not on your Nelly 21 June, 2024 2:55 pm

Number of locums used in the last year – 0. Not because I don’t want to, but because they refuse to the job required.

John Graham Munro 21 June, 2024 3:35 pm

Locums = dumping ground

Yes Man 21 June, 2024 4:58 pm

@ Not on your Nelly, maybe it’s the partners that sell themselves short while slowly burning out. In my experience partners close to retirement age look like they have just escaped from a Siberian gulag that doubles as a mental health facility. We are dealing with PEOPLE, not statistical numbers, that should be treated with care and respect. Stop picking up the slack as it only prolonged the inevitable.

John Graham Munro 21 June, 2024 7:02 pm

I’ve been threatened by Mr. Kaffash (Jamie to his friends} to ban my ‘comments’ for life

Simon Says 21 June, 2024 7:50 pm

Because you are an utter prat

John Graham Munro 21 June, 2024 9:16 pm

Re. Simon Says———careful, a new policy is about to be implemented

So the bird flew away 21 June, 2024 10:53 pm

Sorry Nelly I like a lot of your posts but I’m gonna have to take slight issue. Having been a principal, but last few years “a locum” (yes, that generic species)), I’ve come across lots of great locums but also some cowboys. But I’ve also come across many great GP principals in my career but also some crooks.
But I don’t make the illogical step that, because some GP principals are rotten apples, so are they all rotten apples. Imo the majority (of both types) do a virtuous job given the pressures including funding.
Sounds like you’ve been unlucky in locums but I hope you find better ones in the future if you need them, but for me the bigger picture is sticking together undivided to get better funded primary care and turfing out this underfunding, privatising, Michelle mone’ing Tawdry Govt…cheers

David Mummery 22 June, 2024 7:44 am

If you think this is bad , just wait for the first 2 weeks in August and see what the situation is like then!

Not on your Nelly 24 June, 2024 5:07 pm

@yes man. As I said, if locums willing to do the job. They will be hired. If not, they won’t. Its a simple choice. Proves why this article has come out and locums are in the predicament they are in. FYI not a burnt out partner.

Not on your Nelly 25 June, 2024 5:59 pm

@so the bird Flew away, I am sure we would hire you and also bring you back recurrently. Fingres crossed for some better locums and we remain on the look for them. As I said, we stop reading when the CV starts with “will not do…” followed by a list of normal daily GP activities.