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‘Many locums feel very hard done by’

We’ve seen a lot of locums become salaried GPs these last few months, so I expect a lot more practices will be planning to spend a lot less on locums going forward, because they’ll be paying a lot more on employed salaried GPs.

Bearing in mind, just over four months ago every GP partner/salaried GP had all holidays cancelled, all appraisals cancelled, many CCG, Feds and PCN meetings being cancelled (and hence most locum work cancelled), as well as thousands of retired GPs being called in. And millions of consultations being put on hold.

At some time soon, holidays will be taken, meetings restart, secondary care will overspill even more into the community, I expect primary care will be completely overloaded as patients start to return. We were 5,000 GPs short going into this!

Even if practices don’t engage these GPs as locums, they’ll end up engaging them as future salaried or partners

Our own surveys and feedback has revealed many locums feeling really hard done by a few practices who they’d loyally supported for many years, yet cancelled all work going forwards, or some slashing agreed rates, with many locums being surveyed saying that they want more support going forwards; it may be that some practices struggle to get locums more than they used to if they’d been blanket-cancelling them during Covid, and others have become salaried. If some practices have employed filled their vacant salaried posts with locums, other practices might now struggle even more. That’s all assuming we don’t have a second wave.

I haven’t seen the research, but a colleague mentioned to me that, on average, remote consultations take 30% more ‘resource’ than face-to-face, and we haven’t any data yet on whether or not the recent move to remote work has resulted in a change in complaints and errors (as one would expect).

So there are all sorts of variables here, all we can know for sure is that there continues to be inadequate numbers of GPs, and practices should not take GP locums for granted because even if they don’t engage these GPs as locums, they’ll end up engaging them as future salaried or partners.

Dr Richard Fieldhouse is chair of the National Association of Sessional GPs