WIth growing numbers of GPs opting to work as locums, the BMA findings suggest that many are making the move as a positive career choice, rather than simply because they are unable to secure traditionally more sought-after partnership or salaried roles.
Almost half (46%) of locum GPs describe the role as a positive career choice, with 36% saying salaried roles are too onerous and unrewarding, and more than half (53%) saying partnership roles are too onerous and unrewarding.
Just 2% said they were working as a locum because they couldn't secure a job as a partner, and just 1% because they were unable to find a salaried post.
Around half of the 382 locum GPs who responded to a survey question from the BMA said locum work suited their work pattern and gave them more autonomy than partnership or salaried roles.
Across more than 5,000 GPs in all roles in general practice, partnership remains the most popular career option, with 47% saying their preference over the next five years was to work as a partner under the existing independent contractor model.
Around a third (32%) said they would like to work as a partner within an organisation providing GP services 'at scale', while 30% said they would like to be a portfolio GP.
BMA sessional subcommittee chair Dr Zoe Norris said: 'Choosing a career as a salaried or locum GP is a positive choice for thousands of GPs across England. As this survey shows, many opt for these jobs because they are flexible and for locums offer a degree of control over their own workload. Sessional GPs also said they would consider a wide range of options for the future, including the increasingly popular portfolio GP role.
'However, we should not be blind to the fact that salaried and locum GPs are on the receiving end of the same pressures that are threatening all of general practice. Many are overworked and operating in an environment with not enough staff or resources. This is bad for patients and demoralising for doctors. We need NHS England and the government to realise that they cannot continue to rely on burnt out grassroots GPs to provide a service that is under threat of collapse.'
Some estimates put the total number of GPs now working as locums as high as 17,000, although many of these may be doctors who also work in permanent roles.
RCGP chair Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard told GPonline earlier this month that the balance of incentives between partnership and locum roles was wrong, with GPs now able to earn more in locum roles and partners facing huge workload pressures.
GPonline reported earlier this year that locums carry out more than a fifth of total workload at one in seven GP practices, and this month revealed that one in six GPs who describe themselves as locums now were partners a year ago.