Exclusive: GPs are ditching partnership roles to start locum careers

GPs are continuing to abandon partnership roles in favour of locum work, a survey suggests.

Around one in six GPs who describe themselves as locums were partners a year ago, a poll by GPonline and its sister website Medeconomics reveals.

The findings suggest that soaring pressure on practices is continuing to take its toll on the GP workforce, with some doctors who have ditched partnership work citing unbearable workload as the reason for the move.

The data confirm a growing trend towards GPs opting for locum work over partnership roles. A GPonline survey earlier this year revealed that one in seven GP practices now rely on locums to deliver 20% or more of their workload.

GP locum fees

The latest findings come as part of a Medeconomics/GPonline survey on locum rates, which shows that fees charged by locums have risen for a second year in a row as demand for their services increases. Three out of five GPs (59%) who were working as locums a year ago say demand for their services has increased in the past year.

Of 648 GP respondents who work as locums, 65% said this was currently their main role, compared with 50% who said locum work was their main role a year ago.

The vast majority of the increase in locum GPs appears to have come from GPs quitting partnerships. Of the 65% of GPs who said locum work was their main role now, one in six (17%) said their main role a year ago was a GP partnership.

A total of 14% of GP respondents who do some work as locums said their main role was being a salaried GP. The same proportion of respondents said their main role was salaried 12 months ago.

A handful of respondents now working as locums said they were GP registrars a year ago.

GP workload

Asked why they had opted to work as locums, many GPs cited reduced bureaucracy and stress. One respondent said: 'Able to concentrate on looking after patients rather than dealing with the red tape.'

Another said: 'More money, less hassle, no paperwork, variety, no administrative work.'

One GP said: 'Fed up with being a partner. I trained to be a doctor not a manager.'

GPonline revealed earlier this month that almost half of GP partner vacancies have been unfilled for more than a year. Many partners report that they are considering reducing their take-home pay in the next year to keep their practice afloat, and one in 10 GPs say their practice is at risk of closing in the next year because of problems with recruitment and workload.

Photo: JH Lancy

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