GP locums are a very rich and diverse workforce, so it comes as no surprise to Dr Isobel Heyworth when she is asked by a new practice if she can supervise a medical student.
I’ve certainly known a number of fantastic GP locum colleagues who, having done years of medical education in a salaried or partnered role, have continued, despite shifting into GP locum work, especially if they stayed at one practice. Similarly, as a clinical lecturer at the University of Manchester, fresh-faced GP ST3s are as keen to hear about ways into teaching as they are about locuming in my experience. Despite this, I know first hand that medical schools have been very slow to offer formal opportunities for GP locums as clinical placement supervisors, and does seem like a waste of some incredibly experienced clinical educators.
Much of this has been historical. Universities pay practices for each placement, and teaching is negotiated in turn by the practice as part of a GP’s weekly workload. In addition, part of the payment is for the premises, as well as the other healthcare learning opportunities a student might be beneficially exposed to – nursing clinics, pharmacist clinics, practice manager etc. Just the thought of paying one-off GP locums directly for teaching a single session in a semester block is enough to send the Medical School Admin in to meltdown, to say nothing of how to adjust learning experiences, ensure the safety of the student environment and quality control each GP locum tutor. Never the less, medical schools are growing, and in combination with a melting pot of increasing GP workload pressures and reduced funding, traditional GP Clinical Placement tutors are in increased demand, and new workable models are being actively sought.