A total of 31% of locum GPs who participated in a GPonline opinion poll of 440 doctors said they did not feel ‘at all’ informed about how PCNs have developed in their area, following their introduction at the start of July.
A further 41% of locums said they were ‘fairly uninformed’, with just over one in four indicating they felt ‘fairly informed’.
Among salaried GPs, 14% said they were 'not at all informed' and a further 50% said they were 'fairly uninformed' about their PCN's development.
This dramatically contrasted with responses from GP partners – just 1% of this group said they had not been fully informed about PCNs and their implications.
The vast majority of partners (56%) reported feeling ‘fairly informed’ about PCN development, while a further 16% said they were ‘very informed’.
Engagement with PCNs
The GPonline poll also found that most GP locums do not feel engaged with their local PCNs.
Some 51% said they were ‘completely disengaged’ and 23% were moderately disengaged. Just a quarter (24%) said they felt ‘somewhat’ engaged with the PCN, while no locums said they felt highly engaged.
Among salaried GPs, just over a quarter (26%) said they were completely disengaged, with 37% moderately disengaged. Some 30% said they were somewhat engaged, while 6% said they were either moderately or highly engaged.
Among GP partners, only 6% said they felt ‘completely disengaged’ with their PCN. Most partners, around one in three, reported feeling 'somewhat engaged' with their network, while a further 27% said they felt ‘moderately engaged’. Only one in ten partners reported being highly engaged with their PCN.
The survey found there was widespread uncertainty among locum GPs about how PCNs were developing and how they would impact on their working lives. Many locums said they knew very little about how networks would work and felt 'out of the loop', with one saying they were 'a bit of a mystery'.
‘I know very little about them [but] constantly changing the structures in primary care won’t solve the workforce crisis,’ one locum said.
‘As a locum, [I’m] very much on the periphery of things and [I’m] not sure how many other locums are involved,’ another commented.
One locum even admitted to not being aware of the plans at all: ‘What are primary care networks? I've never heard of them’.
Involving GP locums
Dr Robert Weaver, clinical director of Mendip PCN in Somerset, said developing relationships with local sessional GPs should be a priority for clinical directors.
‘These findings are significant and it will be important that PCNs consider how to better engage with the locum workforce in their area,' he said.
'One of the benefits of PCNs is to have a single voice for local primary care for the wider system, but this could also apply to communication with locum GPs.’
Dr Weaver said that the LMC and CCG in Somerset had provided ‘regular bulletins and updates’ about PCNs since the announcement of the contract. But in the absence of this support in other areas, he said locums should make efforts to read up on the changes.
‘I would encourage locums to look at the many resources available about PCNs both nationally and on a local level, through their local medical committee.’
Dr Ben Molyneux, chair of the GPC sessional GP subcommittee, said: 'Locum GPs are an integral and significant part of the GP workforce, providing high-quality care to patients and supporting the running of practices every day.
'As they evolve, the success of PCNs relies heavily on involving as many colleagues as possible, and we would expect any effective network to want to draw on the full range of talent and expertise offered by sessional GPs.
'Locums often have a wealth of diverse experience behind them and we would encourage all PCNs to engage with and involve them, so that networks can truly harness the skills and expertise that they have to offer.'