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Let’s treat the ‘locum cap’ with the contempt it deserves

Apparently, we’ve got to put a cap on locums. Which confused me at first. What sort of cap? Baseball, flat or shower? Or Dutch, to stop them replicating? But no, of course, I remember now, the cap is on locum rates rather than locum’s heads.

These ideas are presumably dreamed up by people who really, really hate GPs

But it isn’t even that, either. Because it’s not a real cap. It’s just a nominal one, of £80 per hour. Or £80.01, bizarrely. It was written into the contract, right? We all got cross about it, then forgot the whole thing and, since nothing more had been heard, hoped that the Government had, too.

No such luck. Sometime soon, it seems we will have to fill in a mandatory report on how many locums we’ve ‘overpaid’ in the last quarter – so that extra 1p bonus could cost you hours in Excel spreadsheet time.

I can barely be bothered to highlight the various issues around this. Such as working out what exactly £80 per hour means. Is that with superannuation or not? Does it include visits? Or scripts? Or breaks? And what’s the point, it’s a free market, why measure what you can’t control etc?

What I would like to do is point out that the exercise is very much like another contractual arse-ache of a little while ago: the requirement that we should publish our average earnings. Remember how apoplectic we were about that?  And note now the disparity between that indignant energy we expended and the who-gives-a-tossness the eventual publication elicited.

This is the same. These ideas are presumably dreamed up by people who really, really hate GPs, want to make a point and want to tie us in knots in the making of it (that point probably being that GPs and locums earn far too much money, though how both can apply beats me). Well I think we should make a point of our own, specifically that these exercises are pointless, meaningless and ridiculous, and should be treated with the contempt they deserve.

So join me in making a mockery of the whole thing by entering in the requisite box your hat size, or some other random number which bears no relation to the figure the DH is looking for and entails no effort whatsoever. Do that, and I’ll doff my cap to you. Just as soon as I can get it off my overpaid locum’s head.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. You can follow him on Twitter @DocCopperfield