Most locum and salaried GPs ignored as primary care networks form, poll reveals

Just one in 20 locum GPs are involved in setting up primary care networks (PCNs) across England, and only one in 10 have even been consulted, a GPonline poll suggests.

Sessional GPs left out as PCNs form (Photo: Photofusion/Getty Images)
Sessional GPs left out as PCNs form (Photo: Photofusion/Getty Images)

Salaried GPs have similarly been left out of PCN planning, with less than a quarter consulted and only one in 14 involved. BMA leaders said the survey findings - which suggest that the vast majority of locum and salaried doctors have not been involved in any way in setting up PCNs - were 'disappointing.'

All GP practices across England are expected to join a PCN - which are expected to bring practices together across patient populations of around 30,000 to 50,000 patients - by July. The deadline for submitting applications to form the networks passed this week.

GPC sessional subcommittee chair Dr Zoe Norris warned that involvement of sessional GPs - who make up the majority of the workforce - in setting up PCNs was 'imperative' if they were to succeed.

Primary care networks

Among all 524 partner, salaried and locum GPs in England who responded to the GPonline survey, 29% said they were involved in setting up a PCN and 41% said that they had been consulted.

Among partners, 64% were involved in setting up a network and 89% had been consulted. But among salaried GPs, just 7% were involved in setting up a PCN and 23% had been consulted - and among locums just 5% were involved and 11% said they had been consulted.

The findings come just weeks after former GPC sessional subcommittee chair Dr Vicky Weeks told GPonline that locum and salaried doctors were being ‘left out’ as PCNs were formed.

NHS Digital data show that partners now make up less than half of the total GP workforce - and official figures are thought not to include more than 10,000 locum GPs who work in the NHS.

GP workforce

Responding to the survey figures, BMA sessional GPs subcommittee chair Dr Zoe Norris said: ‘The success of primary care networks relies on involving as many colleagues as possible, and it is imperative that salaried and locum GPs – an integral and significant part of the GP workforce – are contributing to their formation.

‘It would therefore be disappointing if they are underrepresented at this stage. Many sessionals have a wealth of experience under their belts, with a large number having been partners in the past, and PCNs would be wise to make the most of all they have to offer.’

Practices across the country are in the early stages of forming PCNs after being asked to complete and return the network DES registration forms by 15 May.

Speaking earlier this month, Dr Weeks voiced concern that sessionals were not ‘being invited to be at the table as part of PCNs’, saying that - although there were 'one or two' sessional GPs taking on clinical director roles within emerging networks - in general she did not see 'LMCs and federations and contractors within those inviting sessionals to be part of this'.

Sessional GPs

Also addressing the ‘wealth of experience’ that locum and salaried GPs have to offer, Dr Weeks added that PCNs who chose to ignore sessional GPs would do so ‘at their peril’.

One locum GP taking part in the survey said there had been 'no involvement of [the] locum workforce' in the creation of PCNs, while another wrote that 'no information is known or passed onto locum GPs in our area'.

Dr Norris said PCNs offered ‘a number of opportunities’ for salaried and locum GPs. ‘The BMA has produced a series of resources on PCNs for sessional GPs, and while we would encourage all salaried and locum GPs to get involved, it is vital that LMCs, federations and practices engage with them and ensure they are represented,’ she said.

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