GP locums should not face a ‘second wave’ of cancellations if the UK faces new national restrictions, the NASGP has warned.
Hundreds of GP locums saw sessions cancelled earlier this year, resulting in huge loss of income and morale.
Many GP practices have struggled to equip GP locums for remote consultations, having received little or no support from NHS England for the switch to remote working.
After a brief drop in footfall in March and April, most GP practices still face strong demand for appointments, and expect workload to rise as seasonal flu clinics open for this year’s campaign. Data from LocumDeck shows that some GP practices are already booking sessions with NASGP members as far ahead as December.
NASGP members report that they will soon need to book work with CCAS or private clients in order to prevent loss of income this autumn and winter, which may reduce their availability for practice sessions.
Dr Richard Fieldhouse said: “I sincerely hope that those involved in implementing the first lockdown have learnt lessons in time for this second one.
“Having initially brought in thousands of retired GPs and cancelled all GP leave, NHS England left hundreds if not thousands of actual fully licensed GP locums out of work. By the time it was evident that the public chose to stay away from practices, it transpired that retired GPs weren’t needed. But by then, many GP locums had taken up vacant salaried posts, risking a future reduction in the flexibility and availability of locum cover going forward.
“We’re now entering second lockdown with the burden of a ‘lost summer’ – effectively two winters in a row. Let’s not make two mistakes in row. NHS England must embrace the experience and flexibility of our GP locum workforce in an organised and planned way, with all the resources practices need to book GP locums for remote working.”
A recent Pulse survey found that GP partners said they planned to reduce the number of GP locum sessions they would book this year. But with only 8% of the UK estimated to have antibodies, and little evidence that past infection provides long lasting, effective immunity, the risk to GP partners, salaried GPs and practice staff this winter still poses a threat to general practice teams and services.
The NASGP’s warning comes after England’s chief medical officer called for ‘break in unnecessary links between households’, signalling that new national restrictions may be announced this week.