A new fund for practices sidelines GP locums from Covid-19 recovery.
The funding package worth £150m will be made available to practices to add new salaried GP roles during the second wave of COVID-19, NHS England confirmed in a letter to ICS leaders.
Information about the fund takes an aggressive stance towards locum use in practices.
“Systems are encouraged to use the fund to stimulate the creation of additional salaried GP roles that are attractive to practices and locums alike,” the authors write. Authors neglect to mention locums at any other point during the message.
But stated goals of the fund include “continuing to make inroads into the backlog of appointments” and “potentially offering backfill”.
Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chair of NASGP, writes: “The problem that general practice is facing is that we need to urgently find and mobilise thousands of new GPs to support practices. And the letter rightly priorities ‘speed and simplicity of deployment’.
“Instead, NHS England is asking overstretched CCGs to recruit and employ the equivalent of 6,000 full-time flexible salaried GPs for just four months, after which there is no further funding.
“The intention also seems to be to use this as an opportunity to hastily kick start the process of making the locum workforce salaried and ‘establish pools of flexible employed GPs’.
“NHS England needs to recognise that there are many GP locums with valuable pre-Covid relationships with practices who have been frozen out of the Covid response. They could start work immediately if there was clarity that practices and PCNs could use the fund on increasing GP capacity, irrespective of whether the GP is a locum or salaried.
“In the longer term, the GP workforce crisis will again rise up the agenda. Many GPs who become locums have fled unmanageable workloads in salaried or partnership contracts. It is therefore doubtful that turning GP locums into ‘flexible pools of employed GPs’ will help retention. Flexible for who? A better plan would be recognise the contribution that GP locums make, and enfranchise them into existing structures and processes.”