Locums won’t be ‘corralled’ into flexible pools, the chair of NASGP warned on a podcast this week.
Speaking to Emma Bower for GP Online, Dr Richard Fieldhouse said flexible pools were in principle ‘a fantastic idea’, but warned that colleagues would not give up the flexibility of locuming to operate in a new model.
“The flexibility has not just got to be with the system that’s setting these up,” he said. “The flexibility has also got to empower and enable the locums. The practice needs flexible locums, but the locums also need flexibility.”
Since Covid there are some signs that the NHS is starting to make the best use of its GP workforce, Dr Fieldhouse added: “This pandemic has sort of really cast a light on the need for locums.”
“The biggest problem in the NHS is workforce, and the biggest problem the workforce has is wellness and resilience,” he said. “If you have happy engaged GPs who are motivated, everything else will follow.”
During the pandemic locums survived months of stress and professional isolation, he said, but in the last 18 months have been in greater demand than ever. NASGP’s independent locum booking platform, LocumDeck, has seen exponential growth since last summer and NASGP has added two new staff members to cope with demand.
“We’ve never seen anything like it,” Dr Fieldhouse commented.
The chair also shared concerns that for all the talk of a GP workforce crisis, the workforce is not well visualised by leadership.
“The GMC database last time I looked had about 68,000 GPs fully qualified, practising who’ve been revalidated,” Dr Fieldhouse said. “Subtract the number of partners and salarieds, which we definitely have the proper headcount for, and you’re left with a figure of about 17,500, GP locums, and that’s what the GMC in 2018 published a document to state that that’s the figure they think, is the correct figure.
“That’s about 25% of the workforce, and about 60 million consultations a year, and to not have the data, to not be totally on top of that…! We can’t really have a conversation about workforce planning, when we don’t know who these people are.
“At NASGP we’ve got 6,000 of them on our database, so we’ve got a good idea of who they are, where they are, and where they’re working.”
Listen to the podcast on GP Online’s website, or find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or Acast.