This site is intended for health professionals only

Locums out of work: ‘I never thought as a GP I would struggle to find work’

Dr Saumya Jha, a locum GP based in North London

‘Things are just cancelled last minute and the shifts that are available are very hard to come by and are high-risk shifts with very limited PPE. So people are really struggling to find employment because either you take the risk of high viral load exposure or you don’t work at all.

‘I can’t work because I’m shielding because of my asthma.

‘I did get Covid and had to call the ambulance in mid-March. From that day on I’ve never been back to work. I’m still on benefits.

‘A guy I know was making something like £130,000 last year and he’s gone from that to nothing. He did 10 sessions [but] now he has been sat at home for two and half months, same as me. He’s not even shielding, he’s just scared because he’s seen what’s out there.

‘Why are we being excluded and marginalised because footfall has dropped? There’s far more as a skilled GP that you can offer to a surgery, aside from just face-to-face consultations.’

 Anonymous GP told the NASGP

’I can confirm [I have] not earned any money for six weeks as a locum. I am not entitled to any Government grant as earnings in the past were over the threshold – bearing in mind most of this profit went to the taxman so actual profit limited. It has been hard as locums cancelled at short notice and it has been six weeks trying to get on the onboarding for CCAS to earn minimum wage.

’I really want to do my part to top it up, have also had non-specific covid symptoms – very difficult time indeed. I have looked at claiming state benefit but [am] hopeful the CCAS onboarding will come through and I might not need to.

’Honestly speaking [I’m] living from hand to mouth – very depressing as I feel underutilised and very insignificant. Huge impact on mental health as well but unfortunately it is what it is. I still feel the Government grant should not have excluded us but then I don’t make the rules. Hopeful still things will improve.’

Anonymous GP, London

’I had been advised by some of my non-medical friends to look into some of the Government schemes for self-employed people as I was struggling to find locum work. In honesty, I felt like I couldn’t do this – as a doctor I just felt I should be able to find work! 

’I think my situation is a little different in the sense I am not used to being a locum GP. I have always had a salaried GP job and left it to start in another salaried role. I had a contract with a practice signed and was ready to start work then they rescinded the offer before I was due to start. This happened when I had handed my notice in and then Covid hit and suddenly I found myself needing to locum and struggling to find work.

’I cannot even tell you how many people I have emailed, called and even used online forms to try and find work. I have lost count of how many times I have tried 111, OOH and practices through word of mouth and mostly did not hear back or practices said they were quieter than usual and did not need help. On occasion I would get a response and then not hear anything again. 

’I am based in London and ended up leaving London and coming to my parents’ house in Cambridgeshire to try and find work. I have contacted PCN leads and again didn’t get much response. I’m astounded that there has been no organised response for locum doctors who are usually a younger generation and willing to work, yet they have called up retired GPs more at risk from Covid! 

’Everything aside, it has caused financial stress and general worry and uncertainty about the future. I honestly never thought being a GP I would struggle to find work. 

‘I think there is a real issue here with recruitment and protection for both locum and salaried GP (as my experiences have shown). I have been left high and dry and I’m sure there are many people with similar stories.’

David Church

’By the end of March, I started to get cancelled sessions because the regular GPs’ holidays, training courses, and meetings were being cancelled. We fairly soon realised that there was a gradual spreading pattern, with a lot of hospital demand in the South East of England, and a bit of a slow-down locally – coinciding with the Easter holidays when our student population leaves the area, but the expected holidaymakers were not allowed to come, (and cancelled routine work in hospitals), the GPs (and hospital staff) were, for a change, slightly overstaffed and under-occupied.

’At that point I started looking at doing sessions for the CCAS by telephone – not that I felt I needed to avoid face-to-face work, but that I did not feel it would be helpful to travel long distances and then shortly come back when needed here, without possibly having got used to different systems in a strange GP practice in England. Many locums seem to have found this service hard to get into.

’I am lucky in having sufficient reserves to be able to look forward and say, well, at the end of this period without holidays and study breaks, there are going to be many GPs going off on leave or study days, or meetings, later in the year, so demand may be strong in the autumn, and can re-fill the coffers then perhaps.

’That approach will not suit every locum: some have only just started up and will be living on small margins whilst paying off mortgages and student loans, that I no longer need to worry about. There will even be some who went into ‘shielding’ mode in late March, with the prospect of no income for initially 3 months, but now maybe 6 or 12 months!

’Curiously, whilst I expected there would be demand for cover to GPs off “self-isolating” this does not appear to have happened. 

’One possibility is that the sudden drop in demand for locums reflects partly just how much GP time was, until recently, taken up with non-clinical activity, such as meetings and audits, and so on?’

Anonymous GP in a private Facebook support group for doctors seen by Pulse

‘I am out of work and can’t get any for love nor money. I have filled in every single form going – CCG extra capacity form, 111 OOH and emailed local trust as I have background in acute medicine but there just doesn’t seem to be any response.

‘GP practices seem to be managing well and are cancelling annual leave etc so have plenty of staff. Seems there’s either a mismatch going on somewhere and information not getting through or they generally don’t need the number of doctors that they thought they would at this stage.’