Data Suggests Primary Care Locum Use Stable

The amount of GP locum work in the NHS in England stayed stable between 2018 and 2020, despite a perception that numbers of locum GPs have risen. But what about locum practice managers? As FPM Group launches its new Locum PM directory, we look at the trends in locum GP use and ask if the same trends apply to locum PMs.

Locums play a crucial role, and whether they’re locum GPs or PMs they help to cover for staff on maternity leave, holiday, sick leave, or suspension (74% of locum use was to cover long-term absences or vacancies). They are particularly helpful when it comes to providing out-of-hours care. In August 2021 we published an article explaining exactly what defines a locum worker and some best practices when employing them.

Winter Locum Demand

Interestingly, despite a seemingly widespread belief that the use of locums has been rising in recent years, the data for GP locums at least has remained stable. Although exact numbers are commercially confidential, the National Association of Sessional GPs (NASGP) stated that the most significant increase in reservations occurred last winter when bookings quadrupled between November 2020 and April 2021, and they anticipate January’s results to match or exceed that of November 2021.

However, certain trends do stand out. For example, rural practices make 25% more use of locum GPs than urban practices. And those practices only staffed by a single GP had relied more on locums, understandably – almost five times more. Practices have been paying anything from £100 per hour, or more, well above the current market rate, but this has been necessary in order to respond to patient demands, even when there are minimal face-to-face consultations.

Locum Coverage

The findings also shed light on the demographic of the typical locum GP. They are more commonly male, aged 42 on average, and they are more likely to have qualified abroad than the typical GP. In terms of location, the data highlights that recruitment and retention is more of a significant issue in North West, Greater London, West Midlands, Essex, and the Isle of Wight.

It comes after a snapshot study by the BMA revealed that more than one-fifth of physicians (21%) had to self-isolate in the last two weeks, while an RCGP poll revealed that 95 percent of GP practices are seeing substantially greater numbers of staff absent than typical.

The value in monitoring these locum trends – whether GPs or Practice Managers – is that it allows a picture to be built up of the current challenges in capacity and enable better workforce planning. (If you’re interested in this topic, why not check out our article on Hire to retire – the importance of succession planning, which appeared in Practice Business?).

Why not share your experience of finding and hiring locum GPs or Practice Managers? Tell us your story at contactus@firstpracticemanagement.co.uk


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