Around this time last year, Pulse ran a series of stories on locums who were left without work, and in some cases left in a position where they had to claim benefits.
A year on and we are in a very different position. Locum leaders say that locums are being snapped up within minutes of declaring their availability. One practice in Kilbride, Scotland, has taken the drastic step of putting routine appointments on hold and only accepting emergency appointments because of staffing problems.
I have noticed a bit of antagonism between locums and partners around this boom and bust cycle, with some locums feeling aggrieved about practices halting their use last year. Partners, on the other hand, have felt they have been taken for a ride by locums charging higher rates. I can understand why both parties feel like that, even if I suspect that there is no malice on either side.
But my main feeling is that this is two sides of the same coin – the coin being the recruitment crisis that has not gone away. The instable nature of GP recruitment means that when partners do get the chance to rein back locum costs they will; conversely, locums always know this is a possibility due to unstable supply and demand.
I can’t see much respite from this boom and bust. LMC leaders are fearing winter, with pressure already mounting, and no doubt locums will be in even more demand. And no alternative counting of GP numbers will change this.
Maybe the only way out is to rip it up and start again.
Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.