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The great GP social media war



It’s 5am. I’ve got the graveyard shift with my baby today. She’s up far too early but luckily, seems easily amused by the brightly green coloured telephone toy and is happily eating said toy. I do think she’s meant to put it next to her ears but I guess bright green means tasty in baby language. Maybe a career in ENT is out of the question for her.

A quick glance at Facebook shows an almighty row has erupted on social media about locum doctors, again.

We are a bitter lot, aren’t we? 

‘These locums charge max rate but do min work,’ says one disgruntled partner, ‘They stick to their T&Cs and don’t do any more than that.’

Oh dear, this is prime bait for a flame war. Hopefully we’re all super mature and won’t exacerbate things further.

‘Typical partner, wants more than they pay for. Why any locum would come back to spend time with someone with such a miserable attitude? No wonder they don’t want to do extra,’ was the first reply, presumably a locum GP from Leicester.

It seems the declaration of war has been accepted – a fairly decent riposte, a bit too angry for my liking though.

‘So you’re upset because the person you hired to do a job actually turned up and did their job according to what you agreed?’ responds someone from Nottingham. A delicious response, just the right amount of sarcasm balanced by simple fact.

‘When things were good eight years ago, locum pay was 30% less than now, but partners earned 25% more,’ pointed out one Cumbrian locum. Is that figure true? Yes, that hardly seems fair now, does it? I had heard of the bad old days (or good, depending on your viewpoint) – 100 plus applicants for each partnership. Partners often led salaried GPs up the garden path, getting them to do much extra work for the hope of a partnership. If I was Buddhist I’d call that Karma.

‘If you wanted more work than what was agreed, you should have agreed it!’ one GP from London wrote. ‘I don’t expect my plumber to sort out my central heating for free once he’s fixed the leak in the bathroom.’ Quite right too. And why should anyone begrudge charging extra for extra work? Is it not the partner who is being unreasonable for an expectation of extra work above what has been agreed? Don’t we charge for non NHS work like letters and medical reports so on? Surely by an extension of the partner logic, if we get paid to do another job we should do extras like this for free?

‘Come on guys, this kind of language divides us as a profession’, responds an East Anglia GP. No thread would be complete without the let’s all be friends pacifist. I can empathise. There is a feeling of safety to dipping your head under sand and hoping everyone will kiss and make up.

‘If partners are charged too much there won’t be any partners left, and the NHS won’t survive without partners’, a partner from Oxford writes. Well, you can’t argue with that logic. The likelihood of Jeremy Hunt paying market rates for a doctor if all partners resigned is probably lower than Donald Trump writing a love sonnet about a Muslim Mexican woman.  

What I can say? We are a bitter lot, aren’t we? Throw a few thousand GPs onto a single social media group and it is a wonder no physical wars or nuclear weapons have been fired. Too many alphas, not enough epsilons. We are tribal, judgemental, and inherently grumpy. The more I think about it, the less I am surprised so many health ministers hate us.

My conclusion? We all spend way too much time on Facebook.

The secret locum is a locum GP in northern England