Exclusive: Locum and salaried GPs report better work/life balance than partners

Locum and salaried GPs have a better work/life balance than partners and have not faced the same increase in their administrative workload, a GP survey has found.

Dr Fabre: ‘With the changes in QOF, the workload has increased enormously'
Dr Fabre: ‘With the changes in QOF, the workload has increased enormously'

The GP workload survey of 1,659 GPs found that over half of GP partners work 49 hours or more a week, compared with one fifth of locum and salaried GPs.

GP partners also reported spending more time carrying out work at home. One fifth of locum and salaried GPs said they carried out six or more hours of work at home, but nearly two fifths of partners did the same.

RCGP Scotland chairman Dr John Gilles said that many young GPs are delaying taking on partnerships due to the work involved.
‘The amount of work involved in being a partner is considerable. The pattern is now for young GPs to finish their training, work for a few years as a salaried GP doing out-of-hours and then become a principal,’ Dr Gilles said.

It was clear from the survey that the administrative burden on GPs had increased. Over 90% of GP partners said that administration has increased over the last 12 months.

Locum and salaried GPs were slightly less affected by administration rises, with 73.4% saying that they had seen an increase.

GPC negotiator Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Partners have borne the brunt of the additional workload. Locum GPs have a more controlled workload.’

Many locum and salaried GPs said that due to the nature of their roles, they were protected from the administrative burden that many partners face.  One locum GP said ‘I let the principals take care of the administrative work.’

Another GP locum said that although their administration had increased, it was different to the paperwork carried out by partners.

They said: ‘As a GP locum I have a different sort of paperwork to a principal, which is largely connected with finding and arranging work and billing.’

Sussex GP Dr Clarissa Fabre, president of the Medical Women's Federation, said that increasing bureaucracy and administration had left GP partners with less time to see patients.

Dr Fabre said: ‘With the changes in QOF, the workload has increased enormously. The government is asking for more and more information, leaving us less time to speak to our patients.’

The survey found that NHS reforms and the creation of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) had increased GP workload, however partners were more affected than locum and salaried GPs.
75.6% of partners said that reforms had increased their workload, compared with just 42.7% of locum and salaried GPs.

This result may be due to the exclusion of locum and salaried GPs from CCGs, National Association of Sessional GPs chairman Dr Richard Fieldhouse said.

 ‘Unfortunately there are a lot of GP locums who are being actively excluded from CCGs,’ Dr Fieldhouse said.

GP partners' workload had become so bad that almost two thirds (62.9%) said that they were considering quitting medicine altogether due to workload pressures.

37.1% of partners said that they had considered working abroad and a fifth said they would consider switching to another speciality.

Locum and salaried GPs seem less concerned about workload pressures. Only 41% said they would consider quitting medicine altogether.

Locum and salaried GPs also reported higher satisfaction with their work/life balance than GP partners. 

Dr Fieldhouse said that locum and salaried GPs, especially those working in chambers experienced a better working environment than many partners.
‘A number of partners who have become locums in our chambers have cited a dramatic increase in their work/life balance,’ Dr Fieldhouse said.

Only 28.3% of partners said they were either quite happy or very happy with their work/life balance. However 47.6% of locum and salaried GPs said they we quite happy or very happy with their work/life balance.

Over half (55%) of GP partners said that the hours they work had put 'unreasonable pressure' on their personal relationships. In comparison, over half (52%) of locum and salaried GPs said that it had not.

Dr Fabre said that it had become increasingly difficult for partners to balance their work and family lives.

‘My partners rarely leave the surgery before 9pm trying to keep up, especially with paperwork, and filing electronic path results,’ Dr Fabre said.

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