Five years ago the National Association of Non-Principals, as we were then, changed our name to the National Association of Sessional GPs. The reason being that although an extremely accurate title, the term ‘non-principal’ defined us by a negative association – by what we were not, rather than what we were. Which is why the term Sessional GP works so well in that respect.
But the term Sessional GP isn’t without it’s critics, and me for one. Everywhere I go I hear or see the term misused. When we adopted the phrase, it having first been suggested by Dr Andrew Dearden at one of our national NASGP conferences, it was then a catch-all term for any GP working as a salaried or locum or retainer GP. But it still seems to be being used to define just one or the other, often interchangeably or without reference to any other. So, one document about just locums refers to locums continually as ‘Sessional GPs but without actually saying that salaried GPs are Sessional GPs too.
The biggest danger, however, lies in its actuall application where actually it’s just not helpful. The specific case here is in terms of Revalidation, where Sessional GPs are often cited as being a problem. But that’s a huge oversimplification, and the issue here is not whether they’re employed (salaried) or self-employed (locum), but whether they’re actually practice-based or not practice-based. Indeed, one often comes across locums who seem to have been working 5 sessions regularly in the same one practice for the last 5 years (obviosly without the knowledge of the Inland Revenue!).When it comes to Revalidation, by far the most important factor we need to get our collective heads around is the complexity of collecting useful evidence if you work in more than just a few practices.