Jeremy Hunt, please don’t avoid the locum issue

By Ted Eytan from Washington, DC, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Ted Eytan from Washington, DC, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Jeremy Hunt today announced his new deal for general practice, including 5,000 more GPs, more physician associates and seven-day opening.

But what about those 17,000 GPs who work independently within the NHS as locums that weren't mentioned anywhere in the speech? We were told of the 50 new GP returners, but not locums.

Oh wait, there was what could have been a sideways reference to these 17,000 GPs: "...explore...new flexibilities to retain those precious GPs who are nearing retirement but may want to work part-time as they too have a critical role to play."

Sadly though, that doesn't account for the fact that most newly qualified GPs spend their first five years post-qualification working as independent locum GPs. The sad corollary of which too, is that no matter how many new GPs we persuade to join general practice, and even how many new physician associates we train, it's highly likely that many of these will also end up working as locum GPs or locum physician associates.

Which is why the NASGP strongly urges Jeremy Hunt to take a good long look at the locum chambers model that has been around for over a decade, and is enabling highly engaged locum GP workforce in Yorkshire, Merseyside and the South East to work together in teams in a symbiotic relationship with their local CCGs.

This government, and indeed our colleagues at the RCGP and BMA, need to stop tip-toeing around the fact that one in four GPs are now choosing to work as locums, and instead meet this challenge head-on with practical and creative solutions that fully enfranchise all GPs into the primary care workforce.

Richard has worked as a freelance GP locum since 1995 in around 100 different practices, living and working in West Sussex and Hampshire. He founded NASGP in ‘1997 and the UK’s first locum chambers in 2004, and leaving the chambers in 2017.

He enjoys walking, reads too many books on behavioural economics and has an unhealthy obsession with his sourdough starter.

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