77% of locum GPs in the East of England struggle to find work finds BMA survey

Health / Sun 23rd Jun 2024 at 07:49am

A BMA survey has revealed that three out of four locum GPs in the East of England (77%) cannot find work, despite patients waiting weeks for appointments. An overwhelming number of those who responded to the survey said they could not find suitable positions and because of that, more than 44% are expecting to make changes to their work or career plans in the next year.

More worryingly, many (37%) have already made changes and the BMA fears patient access will worsen in the East of England as one-third of respondents (31%) who are planning for change say the lack of suitable shifts is forcing them to leave the NHS entirely.

Dr Alexandra Davidson, a locum from Cambridgeshire, told the BMA: “I used to get locum shifts via a local email group. There would be lots of shifts on there, but last year all of a sudden it went quiet. I looked at my calendar and realised it was soon becoming empty. That’s when I started to panic.

“I didn’t make any money from locuming in March, and I have very little work booked in for the next few months. I’m really struggling to pay my bills and mortgage. I’m not financially stable, and it’s terrifying. I’m a 45-year-old professional with decades of medical experience and I’m now in a situation where I might have to ask my parents to help.

“I don’t want to leave the UK in order to be financially stable and do the job I love, but have my family’s blessing to move to Canada if it comes to it. All I want to be is a GP, but the Government won’t let me do that.”

81% of respondents who can find work do not feel they have enough time in sessions to provide patients with safe and thorough care, with 27% reporting having to work beyond their agreed session contracts to meet these standards. Survey respondents also report working, on average, 1 day less per week now than they did in 2022.

Last year, BMA warned the government that the current Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS), which only funds non-GP roles, would exacerbate the GP employment crisis. 61% of respondents blame the ARRS for GP unemployment.

Dr Mark Steggles, King’s Lynn GP and BMA’s sessional GP committee chair, said: “These shocking results reinforce what locum GPs are telling us – they cannot get any, or enough work. As well as the stress and worry that causes them – when combined with the lack of NHS salaried and partnership opportunities – it leaves us in the ridiculous situation where so many patients are being denied the chance to see a GP, even though we have GPs wanting to work and care for them.

“On the one hand, we have thousands of GPs in England desperate to work more, but being driven into careers outside the NHS. On the other hand, patients in pain, needing care, are waiting record-breaking periods of time to see a GP. It’s difficult to comprehend how the NHS – a health service once world-renowned – has reached this point where thousands of highly-skilled doctors are unable to find suitable work within it and patients are suffering as a result.”

Professor Philip Banfield, chair of BMA council, said: “How is it possible to have thousands of patients needing treatment and GPs available to give that care, but prevented from doing so by a system unable to pay them? To have highly qualified doctors turning to other jobs to earn a wage whilst GP practices cannot meet the demands placed on them and patients waiting weeks for an appointment, shows what a fiasco the NHS has been turned into. It is clear we have a Government which has not only watched, but aided and abetted the decline of general practice and with it, the morale and goodwill of our GPs, especially in England. GPs are hugely underappreciated – there is no substitute for their skills and experience. NHS England and Ministers should be absolutely ashamed of the mess that is primarily of their creation and now be doing everything in their power to try to restore and rebuild the cornerstone of efficient and effective healthcare – the family doctor.” 

Dr Clare Bannon, GP practice partner and BMA England’s GP committee lead for clinical and interface policy, said: “The government has ring-fenced the funds that practices use to hire staff and blocked us from employing GPs. Patients deserve to be seen by doctors. GPs have the education and skills to differentiate between routine conditions and serious illnesses, making access to a GP potentially a matter of life and death. Understandably, patients are frustrated and concerned about their lack of access to family doctors. At the same time, GPs are desperate for work, and practices are unable to hire them. This situation is truly a destructive and ridiculous paradox.”

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5 Comments for 77% of locum GPs in the East of England struggle to find work finds BMA survey:

2024-06-23 10:49:04

If tories had not made cuts to GPs funds for so long like everywhere else, we would not be in this situation. Local GP surgery is making noises about striking because of it all. Scary times to be poorly, esp as we have had our first death because someone saw a PA, not a doc. More to come no doubt.. Anyone who votes tory are just mad after the last 14 years, they have made everything worse, stop blaming GPs.

2024-06-23 12:35:29

Trace the Labour government changed the doctors contracts in 2003 this allowed them to sell their practices to larger companies some of them being American owned. All surgeries in Harlow and Rivers hospital operate under Stella Health Care. Also as with dentists and opticians they are only contracted to the NHS not owned by the NHS

2024-06-23 15:35:03

Colin, the NHS pay per patient for each GP practice. GP's have been private for years, that I knew. I don't recall it ever as hard to get an apt as it is now, nor known of GP practices closing due to lack of funding, such is happening. I wonder what the difference is... Oh I know, it's the 20% cuts in the last decade, that's what it is. Do not get this wrong, this catastrophe for patients and caused by our gov.

Nicholas Taylor
2024-06-25 07:23:39

Just goes to show that there is not a such a big shortage of doctors as some would make out. It is all about these companies making profits rather than patient care. To employ more staff means a reduction in profits. The whole system is broken, throwing more money at it has not seen an improvement in health care. Whilst some parts are very good, there are other areas such as doctors surgeries, dentistry and waiting times in A&E which need urgent re-organisation.

2024-06-25 18:24:25

I found it quite straightforward to get a Doctors appointment within 24hours or even the same day before Covid. During covid you could only mainly get a phone call from a doctor. I think the Doctors loved this , and they are still doing it now. Covid has now been dealt with as such. So doctors get back to face to face appointments.

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