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    Locum GP work in the current UK healthcare landscape

    By Victoria Ashton

    The landscape of Locum General Practitioner (GP) work in the United Kingdom is experiencing a significant challenge, marked by a scarcity of opportunities for those seeking temporary or flexible roles within the healthcare sector.

    The shortage of Locum GP positions has implications not only for medical professionals seeking diverse work experiences, but also for the overall functioning of primary care services in the country.

    A close up of a stethoscope with some files

    The impact of ARRS

    The ‘Additional Role Recruitment Scheme’ (ARRS) funding and financial constraints within the healthcare system has resulted in thousands of career Locum GPs struggling to secure regular work.

    According to Pulse, one agency said that requests for Locum GPs within primary care settings ‘have reduced since the summer’ with ‘various new ARRS roles coming to the forefront at surgeries’, and asked GPs to consider reducing their rates to secure work.

    GPs and experts have stated that this is because practices are struggling to pay for locums due to insufficient funding, and that the use of Locum GPs in surgeries has significantly reduced.

    One GP stated that locum work has ‘literally disappeared overnight’, and that after four years as a full-time locum, they have had to contact a charity for financial assistance. They said they felt this is ‘because of ARRS which has seen general practice flooded with ANP/ACP/PAs resulting in no need for highly qualified doctors’.

    National Association of Sessional GPs chair Dr Richard Fieldhouse stated: ‘There are definitely areas where locums are not being valued and instead, they are being supplanted by other types of roles’.

    A silver stethoscope on a brown wooden table

    GPs opting for salaried roles

    The shortage of Locum GP positions has resulted in an increased number of GPs opting for salaried roles. With many GPs choosing stable, long-term positions, the availability of Locum GP opportunities has diminished, impacting those seeking temporary positions for various reasons, such as work-life balance or gaining diverse clinical experiences.

    That said, even some Salaried GP jobs may not be secure. One practice has taken the decision to make all their salaried GPs redundant and replace them with ANPs, as according to them they are much cheaper, more flexible, and other than not being able to sign a death certificate, can do the same work as a GP.

    The future of Locum GP work

    The lack of Locum GP work in the current UK healthcare landscape is a complex issue with far-reaching implications. With more Locum GPs now reluctantly having to take a less flexible salaried role, what will happen to our ever-evolving healthcare ecosystem if the ARRS funding stops and the demand for locum GPs returns?

    Will there be a huge exodus of GPs going back to their more flexible locum life? If so, what will then happen to those practices and their patients?

    Balancing the needs of healthcare professionals with the demands of the healthcare system will be crucial in building a resilient and responsive primary care workforce for the future.

    However, if practices continue to replace GPs with ARRS funded clinicians, I fear less doctors will put themselves through GP training, and more may emigrate to countries where they are needed and appreciated.

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