The arrival of a good locum on a bad day is like having Wyatt Earp by your side at the OK Corral. But whilst Wyatt walks away at the end of the day largely unscathed, you are left behind to tidy the mess. It is easy to see why there appears to be a divide between partners and locums and it has led some partners – including myself – to wonder whether locums are paid too much.
Partners are expensive, but they run the surgery as well as seeing patients. Salaried doctors are usually paid less than partners because they don’t bear the financial, physical and mental burden of running the practice but should they fail in their duties, they are held to contract reviews. Locum GPs, on the other hand, are not expected to contribute to the duties of a partner nor uphold the same strict contractual arrangements that a salaried doctor would do.
Partners understand that locums have the same professional bills as the rest of us, and that if they don’t work, they don’t get paid. Taking parental leave or sick/compassionate leave is difficult as a locum, but arguably this is offset by the flexibility and freedom they experience. Indeed, GP partners also find taking time off difficult to plan for and usually take out insurance to protect their practice in case of extended periods of illness.
Unfortunately for us all, as practice expenses, patient expectations and list sizes grow, many smaller practices will not afford to use locums. In an ideal world, locum GPs would acknowledge the economic climate and reduce their fees. As it is, I fear they may become another victim of efficiency savings, with locum vacancies paving the way for extended use of the nurse practitioner role. Currently, locum GPs are paid too much, and unsustainably so.
Dr Dean Eggitt is a partner in Doncaster and medical secretary of Doncaster LMC.