Locums forced to join national register to access state-backed indemnity

Locum GPs in Wales will have to sign up to a national register to be eligible for state-backed indemnity cover from 1 April, the Welsh government has said.

GP consultation (Photo: Hero Images/Getty Images)
GP consultation (Photo: Hero Images/Getty Images)

Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething said the 'all Wales locum register' would improve workforce planning by helping the government 'better understand this primary care workforce demographic'.

The BMA's GP committee for England told GPonline there were no plans to follow suit in England.

As the proportion of GPs working in locum roles continues to rise, Mr Gething said that better information about this part of the workforce was 'a pivotal step to structure the provision of sessional work to support our GP partners working in Wales'.

Locum workforce

In a statement on Monday, Mr Gething said: 'It is noted that the number of GP locums has increased year-on-year since data for locums was first available. We need to better understand this primary care workforce demographic in Wales to inform more effective workforce planning.

'I am introducing a new innovation in Wales – the all Wales locum register. This will enable a greater understanding of the needs and support that the locum market provide to general practice – providing the intelligence for us to respond appropriately.'

The Welsh health minister confirmed that 'to access the state-backed indemnity scheme which will indemnify individuals against claims arising from clinical negligence for NHS work locum GPs will have to enter onto the all Wales locum register'.

GP register

He said the government would work with GPs for three months after the scheme was introduced to 'determine the terms of engagement' and that over time the government would work with locums on the register to 'develop an offer to support their wider career aspirations and development needs'.

Mr Gething said he was committed to the partnership model of general practice and that clear information about the workforce was vital to support its sustainability.

GPC Wales chair Dr Charlotte Jones said: 'GPC Wales has been informed that the purpose of a separate locum list is so that the Welsh government can undertake due diligence to ensure it has an accurate up-to-date list of those it is covering as part of the state-backed indemnity scheme.

'This does raise the question as to why another list is needed separate to the medical performers list.'

GPs have long criticised the lack of clear data on GP locum numbers across the UK. Although workforce data from NHS Digital show around 40,000 headcount GPs in the workforce in England, some experts estimate that as many as 17,000 locums may be missed out by this count.

BMA GPC UK sessional subcommittee chair Dr Zoe Norris said: 'I am concerned at this announcement from the Welsh government that will increase the bureaucratic hurdles for locum GPs who are supporting practices and health boards in Wales.

'The national performers list exists already for all GPs, and this attempt to devise a separate list looks like the beginnings of controlling where and how locums work. Specifically, the link to the state-backed indemnity scheme is completely unacceptable.'

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