Greater respect requested for the GP locum workforce

NASGP chairman Dr Richard Fieldhouse has today raised concerns with NHS England about the situation regarding the lack of access to work for GP locums who have felt shut out of playing their part in supporting general practice and patients during the Covid 19 crisis.

Many locums report disbelief at not being able to offer their services as active, up to date GPs during the biggest health crisis of the century. Whilst retired GPs were being urged back into practice, active locums faced delays in registering to work for CCAS 111. Being out of the loop with IT infrastructure has been a barrier to many locums being able to offer remote consulting for practices.

And in another blow to work opportunities, we learnt yesterday that SCAS's CCAS 111 service, which offers zero hour contracts to GP locums, retired GPs and other clinicians, have cancelled booked sessions for months ahead and are reducing its need for clinicians going forward.

As a consequence, locums who have been out of work for weeks face financial difficulties and low morale.

Dr Fieldhouse said "These are unprecedented times and there have been many shocks. However it is foreseeable that here will be a desperate need for GP locums during the Covid 19 recovery phase, as months of pent-up patient demand catches up with primary care, and secondary care needs overspill into the community. Partners and salaried GPs all need a well-earned holiday; CCGs and PCNs will be getting back to business-as-usual, appraisals will restart, and the increased numbers of home-based workers will realise they now have much increased access to GP appointments. There needs to be much greater respect for GP locums, and better workforce planning, especially around remote working."

We also raised concerns around the implications of Covid-19 staff risk assessments, should it be deemed you can't do face-to-face consulting, without adequate resources for remote consulting on different clinical systems.

Lastly, bearing in mind that locums can work in up to 10 different practices a month, up to 40 a year, we should be the first in line for flu and Covid-19 vaccines. The last thing any of us want is to spread virus between practices.

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