FAQ: How many GP locums work in the UK?

No one seems to know how many GP locums there are in the UK. All data pertaining to the number of GPs in the UK states “excluding locums”. Adding up the figures for fully qualified GPs working in the UK (i.e. excluding GP registrars, who are not yet qualified) we arrive at a figure of 43,440.

The GMC publishes the total number of GPs registered on their database and arrives at a figure of approximately 60,630 (changes daily). The difference between the two suggests the total number of locum GPs, and this figure is approximately 17,190.

This 17,190 registered GPs represent 28% of the UK’s GP workforce, yet this does not appear anywhere on any official government statistics (in 2008, when we first produced this survey, we estimated 15,500 locums out of a total of 57,000 – 28%).

A total figure for all Sessional GPs i.e. non-partner GPs (salaried, retainers and locums) is 22,500 – that’s 40% of all GPs.

How many GP locums work in the UK?

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This raises many questions, including:

  1. How does the profession represent these GPs?
  2. Will this have an effect on the resources allocated for revalidation?
  3. Assuming the Department of Health does not know about these GPs, then how can it make plans for future manpower resources and training?
  4. If 28% of all GPs practise outwith traditional salaried posts or partnerships, what is the profession and Department of Health doing to engage these 17,000 GPs into the clinical governance systems of the
    NHS?

28% of all GPs work outside a managed organisation; the government and profession needs to ensure that its resources are allocated equitably, and reassurance given to patients that the quality and professional welfare of its locum GPs is not being ignored.

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Dr Christine Vickery

Dr Christine Vickery

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