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Increasing rate of pay is top priority for a third of locum GPs

by Julie Griffiths
7 June 2023

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A third of locum GPs said increasing their rates was a ‘top priority’ this year, according to the National Association of Sessional GPs (NASGP) 2023 survey.

Nearly all respondents said being paid higher fees was on their career priority list for 2023 – only 1% said it was their lowest concern.  

The survey of 91 sessional GPs also found that for 18%, working more sessions was a top career goal for this year.  Although a third (34%) said working more was their lowest priority in 2023, and they wanted to slow down their pace.

In terms of planning, the majority (58%) of locums said they plan to work for five years or more, despite a climate of widespread burnout and disillusionment.

Almost a third (29%) plan to work one to five years more and only 4% planned to leave within the next 12 months. A total of 9% indicated they were unsure how much longer they will continue.

When asked about how the pressures on general practice had affected their careers, many admitted they turned to sessional GP work after suffering burnout or ill-health in other permanent roles, including partnership, salaried and retainership posts. Common problems cited were ‘excessive administration’, ‘abusive’ conditions, ‘unrealistic expectations’, and being unable to recruit colleagues.

One locum GP said: ‘I resigned from my “partnership for life” due to workload pressures. It was a very high-earning partnership so I have taken a huge financial hit: 4,500 patients per FTE was unsafe.’

Another described leaving a ‘very successful practice that couldn’t recruit’ two years ago.  He said: ‘I ended up being the last man standing, who is now quietly quitting the best he can until he retires. The trouble is I’m only 53. I’ve remortgaged to pay tax bills (due to the pension issues).’

A third locum said: ‘I burnt out and had to leave my retainership post early last year. Lack of staff, increased demand and unscrupulous employers meant that I was overburdened and unsupported.’

Almost all respondents said their work and career goals had also been shaped by the workforce crisis.

Meanwhile, many sessional GPs revealed in the survey that they plan to remain in the profession by diversifying income streams and developing portfolio careers.

One respondent said: ‘I chose to change to locum work and to diversify my portfolio into other clinical and non-clinical roles to ensure a sustainable working week. I still work a lot but at least I am mostly paid for the hours I do.’

Another said: ‘I am reducing my NHS sessions and doing more private work.’

Dr Richard Fieldhouse, NASGP chair, welcomed the finding that the majority of locum GPs plan to stay in general practice for at least five years.

‘It’s encouraging to see that, despite the challenges faced by our colleagues, such as burnout and increasing workloads, many are finding ways to diversify their income streams and develop portfolio careers to maintain a sustainable work-life balance,’ he said.