Scapegoating Locums Threatens to Exacerbate GP Crisis GPC Warns

The General Practitioners Committee has spoken out on what it deems to be the unacceptable scapegoating of locum doctors.

This risks undermining general practice and exacerbating problems already inherent within the system, according to the GPC.

Dr Zoe Norris, chair of the GPC sessional committee, has suggested that the narrative relating to locums at present is nothing short of destructive, and the prominent individual called on NHS England to alter its conduct.

Norris suggested that NHS England have been guilty of scapegoating sessional doctors by suggesting that the only, or at least primary, problem in general practice is a growing workforce of locum and sessional workers.

But this is not the reality on the ground, with general practice faced with a raft of different pressures and difficulties.

Norris also indicated her belief that NHS England has been guilty of implying that the pursuit of money is the sole reason that Locum doctors choose their particular way of working.

The situation in general practice is so serious that Norris states that vulnerable practices and the out-of-houts service would collapse instantly should locums be pushed toward partnership roles.

“Pushing sessional doctors into a preferred way of working without listening to them will result in the instant collapse of many vulnerable practices, and the entire out-of-hours service. Recognition, investment and reward for the hard work that GPs do, both from NHS England but also from the government is what is needed,” Norris suggested.

NHS England’s Next Steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View document has been particularly critical of locum doctors, describing them as “individuals who are actually available to work and are doing so – but in a way that is unfair to their permanent colleagues and is placing an unacceptable burden on the rest of the NHS.”

And Norris suggested that the language used in the document was highly inappropriate.

‘To have any national body reinforcing the destructive narrative that the “only” problem in general practice is a growing sessional workforce, or that the pursuit of money is the sole reason for GPs to wish to work this way is unhelpful and frankly misleading. I give the profession more credit than buying into this, and hope to see a united front from GPC and LMCs at the upcoming conference.”

The chair of the GP sessional committee instead suggests that a more nuanced perspective is vital in order to understand why primary care is facing the most challenging period is history.

“Improving the working lives of sessional GPs won’t solve the collapse of primary care. Rather than seeking to impose a model on GPs, efforts should be made to address why the GP Forward View is failing to deliver. Putting time and effort into delivering an accurate and updated performers list so we can be confidently assured that we have a way of contacting all sessional doctors would be the single biggest thing that would make a difference.”

Responding to the comments, an NHS England spokesperson defended the forward view document.

“The General Practice Forward View recognises the vital role locum GPs play. However, we must also acknowledge the challenge practices face in providing continuity of care for patients if they are struggling to recruit substantive GP roles.”

The spokesman went on to explain that NHS England is collaborating with other important healthcare bodies in order to create an ideal environment for both permanent and sessional doctors.

“This is why we are working with the BMA to develop positive opportunities for GPs wishing to retain greater flexibility, for example: the GP Career Plus pilots being rolled out in the first instance, and with other stakeholders to streamline the application process to join the medical performers list.”


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