Making locum work more attractive 'could ease GP workforce crisis'

The GPC should draw up plans to make locum GP careers more attractive and push for financial backing from NHS England, LMCs will argue next week.

LMC representatives will call on the GPC to lobby NHS England for investment in 'locum chambers' as a way of recruiting and retaining more GPs, in one of several proposals focused on the locum workforce to be debated at the conference.

GP leaders will also suggest a new ‘locum plus’ model of working, which would provide a structured pathway for locums to work on a rotational basis with a range of practices using fixed-term salaried-style contracts.

The motions will be proposed by the sessional GPs subcommittee at the inaugural GPC England conference, which will be held in London on Friday 10 November.

Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chairman of the NASGP, told GPonline that locum chambers were ‘a fantastic vehicle to recruit and retain GP locums’, and welcomed plans to develop them across England.

Locum chambers

An NASGP survey had found 80% of locums said the only reason they were still a GP was because of chambers, he added. Chambers are a model often used by other professional groups, such as barristers, and allow groups of locums to retain their self-employed status but share some support services through co-operative arrangements.

Dr Fieldhouse said: ‘It’s much nicer working as a team, it’s more independent – GPs who work in chambers adore them, it is an excellent model. However, what we haven’t yet got right is the pricing, because they are very expensive to run.’

Dr Fieldhouse added he was involved in setting up the first locum chambers almost 15 years ago, and questioned whether LMCs needed to involve NHS England.

‘What I think LMCs should be doing is – rather than passing the job on – they should be doing it themselves,’ he said.

‘LMCs are really, really well placed to enable local locums to set up chambers. It’s not difficult – I did it as a lone GP with some mates.

‘NHS England doesn’t even know how to count locums. They don’t have good track record of looking after locums – who does? It’s locums themselves.

‘All you need is GPs who are passionate, who want to stay working in the NHS in sustainable way. Motions have never achieved anything – they should get out and do something, and it starts with a single step getting locums together.

‘LMCs in Nottingham, Birmingham and Essex are doing some really good work – they’ve started sessional GP conferences. That’s really good; more LMCs need to talk to their GPs about this.’

Motion wording in full

To be proposed by the sessional GPs subcommittee: That conference understands the value of independent contractor status but also recognises that not all GPs desire to work in this way and calls upon GPC to:

(i) formulate a blueprint for the future of general practice that includes a plurality of contractual types and provides meaningful support to both sessional and contractor GPs

(ii) lobby NHS England to investigate and invest in locum chambers as a proven GP retention model

(iii) recognise the acute workforce shortages in general practice and support a move to provide a structured pathway for locum GPs to work on a rotational basis with practices on fixed term salaried contracts – a ‘locum plus’ model.

(iv) ensure that locum GPs are protected from large web based platforms and locum banks which attempt to impose unfair terms of work and rates of pay.

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