Three out of five practices’ reliance on GP locums has grown in the past year, with a GPonline survey revealing that approximately one in six appointments are now conducted by locums.

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GPonline poll results

35 per cent of GP partners who responded to the survey claimed the number of GP sessions conducted at their practice by GP locums has significantly increased during the last 12 months.

A further 24 per cent stated that locum sessions at their practice had slightly increased.

The average ratio of sessions conducted by locums was 16 per cent, with one in five partners claiming that over one-quarter of sessions were filled by locum GPs. Several respondents also reported even higher rates, with up to 60 per cent of sessions.

Out of the 654 GPs questioned, 58 per cent responded that locum-filled sessions at their practices had risen during the last 12 months. On average, they reported that one-fifth of the sessions were covered by locums.

The findings have provided further evidence of crises within general practice, such as retention and recruitment, with sessional GPs and locums constituting a vital part of the NHS workforce.

In some practices with acute recruitment issues, it is common to see sessions filled exclusively by locums.

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Dependence on locums

Locums have become a major resource for supporting the struggling NHS system, with recent statistics revealing that approximately half of GP practices struggle to find enough locums when needed. GP locum jobs are often filled through organisations such as http://www.thegplocumagency.co.uk/.

Official workforce data has confirmed that the number of GPs in the UK has fallen considerably over the past few years, with GP partnerships appearing less attractive to trainees. There is an almost four per cent decrease in the number of GP partners, equating to a loss of one GP for every 10 surgeries in the UK.

According to statistics, one-fifth of locums were GP partners in the previous year.

A lack of flexibility and control over workload is the leading reason for GPs becoming locums. Practices must support GPs and offer increased flexibility, as the profession is in dire need of an increase in funding and investment whilst reducing the workload of GPs.

Locum work has become the only way to practice safely and control the workload of a GP as the workload rises inexorably for doctors.a