Q&A: Keeping steady sessional income during Covid-19 when you work as a GP locum

1st February 2021 by Dr Richard Smith

Q&A: Keeping steady sessional income during Covid-19 when you work as a GP locum

About four years – since summer 2016. I finished GP training in 2015 then started work as a salaried GP in Hertfordshire. That could have been good in the long-term but my partner and I decided to move closer to my other half’s family on the Essex-Suffolk border. The natural situation in that case is to do GP locum sessions and trial out work. I had planned to do that on a four to six-month basis and here I am still locuming. It’s afforded me many positives compared to a typical salaried GP working pattern. Working as a GP locum affords me quite significant positives in terms of control over my workload and time in a way that I would never have experienced working as a salaried GP. I would say autonomy is the biggest benefit.

Q; What did your average working month look like before Covid? 

Before Covid-19 the average working month meant four days’ work a week, then one day’s childcare. I would work typical locum hours, 9am until 4pm, in five or six different practices across Suffolk and North Essex.

Q: Can you remember what March, April and May were like for you? 

I looked through my diary and March was, if anything, normal in terms of the amount of work I did. But then in April I got four or five days of work canceled by one of the surgeries I work for. Then I noticed that rather than booking with five or six practices, just two surgeries were now booking me for work. I have to say, I did pretty much fill the month with work, except for one day, which was great. Then in May, I was again very close to normal in terms of total work – just one or two days down. At the time I was worried, because a few practices stopped booking me at that time. And I was also aware of the national situation for locums, which was dire. But I felt reassured when my diary filled out, and very lucky. In November I have managed to get back up to working with three or four practices, which is very welcome. Now I work four days a week again, eight sessions a week.

Q: What steps did you take to cope with lost work or sessions? 

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"The NASGP and the GP locum chambers that I'm in have provided invaluable assistance both before and through Covid-19 to me as a full-time GP locum. All aspects of locum work have been made easier as a result of membership and the chamber's support structure - from accessing work, to ensuring invoicing and documentation is all sorted, and access to other locums as peer support. Having a chamber manager means I feel more secure and can devote more of my energy on my clinical work."

Dr Richard Smith

Dr Richard Smith

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