BMA data exposes truth behind 'money-grubbing locums' myth, says Dr Zoe Norris

Poll data on locum and sessional GPs gathered by the BMA shatters claims that they are young, money-obsessed doctors with no attachment to local areas, GPC sessional chair Dr Zoe Norris has revealed.

Speaking at the LMC conference 2017 in Edinburgh, Dr Norris urged GPs to challenge misconceptions about or misrepresentation of the sessional workforce. The sessional GP subcommittee chair won a standing ovation from delegates for hitting out at claims that sessional GPs were money-grubbing, work shy, younger and mainly women.

Presenting results from the committee’s recent workforce survey – which gathered responses from 2,000 GPs – she revealed that 42% of the salaried and locum workforce were former partners.

She said the survey marked the first time the views of such a large quantity of sessionals has been assembled – with locums being a largely unknown quantity in official headcount and statistics.

Locum GP workforce

It found that the typical salaried GP was 43, while the average locum GP was 48 – shattering the conception that only younger GPs elect for sessional roles, she said.

Most said they had opted for sessional roles due to feeling a ‘lack of control over workload’ in their roles as partners.

‘These are experienced GPs who have been driven away from partnership because of unrealistic demands and inadequate funding,’ she warned.

Pay was not the main motivational factor for locums, she added – over 80% of locums revealed they had not increased their rates since April 2016.

The results suggest nine in 10 locum GPs work with just three practices in a typical month, while over three quarters only work directly with practices they know and have a relationship with.

Reliable, local GPs

‘This is not the mobile, greedy workforce some would have you believe. This is a workforce that stays in an area, that is settled with families, with colleagues in practices, with a support group and a relationship with secondary care.'

The government must not attempt to push these GPs into an intolerable way of working, she said.

‘They must pull these GPs back by listening to the concerns of partners, and taking the collapse of general practice seriously. Do not push them. Why? Because when the GPs we surveyed were asked what they would do if sessional work was further disincentivised, the top answer? Leave the profession completely.’

The committee is pushing for the model salaried GP contract to be adopted consistently across the country, Dr Norris told the LMC conference.

GP contract

‘By agreeing a model set of terms and conditions that protects the locum, and the practice equally, but leaving the freedom for the level of individual and personal negotiation that both sides want, we set the standard high for all the agencies, private companies and acute trusts out there to follow our example.

‘This will not work if we only make a contract that favours locums, or that favours practices, and needs us to work together, not against each other.’

She concluded: ‘I am not a partner, but I would never dream of criticising a colleague who chooses to be. I certainly wouldn’t put all partners in one big group and label them, as the trend seems to be with sessional doctors.

‘No government or organisation should be able to tell us as a profession how we work. Where is the real enemy of general practice? Not in this room.’

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