A survey of 270 GP partners from across the UK found that 26% of practices has significantly increased use of locums in the last six months, and a further 27% has somewhat increased sessions booked, according to GPonline.com.
“As workload has increased we no longer have the capacity to just work a bit harder when someone is off, and are using more locums as a result,” one partner told the editor.
“We could not have managed without massive increase in locum use since the pandemic,” one GP said. “We used to be able to manage with three quarters of normal access when a partner was off. Now patients have such easy access to us the demand is unmanageable.”
Findings coincide with rising activity on NASGP’s LocumDeck platform, which has seen bookings rise every month for the last six months in a row. The BMA has also highlighted the mismatch between 2021 demand and workforce shortages.
Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chair of NASGP, said: “Whilst on one hand we’re delighted to see so many of our members able to support practices at this time through LocumDeck, it’s hugely worrying seeing practices still struggle with so much increased demand from patients.
“With increased demand comes risks for the practices, and especially for locums. Although locums are highly skilled and experienced in supporting multitudes of different practices in all sorts of different settings, any cracks in the system are less apparent to us through the nature of how we work across so many settings.
“With no end in sight, now is a good time for all locums to ensure we have the correct medical indemnity cover in place, and are not relying on state backed indemnity. We strongly encourage GP locums to make sure that they too are not heading towards burnout by making sure they do not over commit to working more than they know to be safe.
“If you are experiencing symptoms of burnout, contact NHS Practitioner Health.”