Why GP partners are retiring and becoming locums
BMA leaders have warned soaring contributions in England and Wales will trigger a workforce crisis, with many GPs likely to bring forward their retirement dates, reports GPonline. 1 in 8 GPs are apparently threatening to quit the NHS if GMS changes go ahead. Commissioning GP echoes a similar story “A growing number of GPs are resigning or taking retirement to avoid the stress and confusion of the NHS reforms and pressure from CCGs to make mass savings,”
Dr Jeremy Cohen is an ex-GP partner from Hertfordshire who left his GP partnership and decided to become a locum. He talks to Network Locum (now Lantum) about his experience in making the jump and gives GPs tips on how to make it work for them.
Why did you decide to leave partnership?
I decided to leave my GP partnership because I was getting increasingly worried about the state of the NHS. Restricted services, red tape and squeezed funding meant more meetings, more bureaucracy and more pressure on obtaining the appropriate care for my patients.
Leaving the partnership has freed me up to be a doctor again, and make looking after patients my primary focus.
Tell us more about what you did since leaving the partnership…
The NHS was frustrating me, but I truly believe that everyone deserves access to a good GP, so I couldn’t turn my back on the NHS completely. I weighed up my options and decided to become a self-employed locum.
I also chose to set up privately too, so that I could treat patients more holistically. When consulting for the NHS, you are restricted to 10 minute appointments. Sometimes you can’t give patients the time they need. Setting up privately meant that I could spend as much time as I judged was clinically necessary.
What would you say to GPs who are planning to start locumming?
Not everyone can be a good locum and you really have to understand the challenging nature of the role before you take it on. I would suggest GPs have a long think about whether it is the right path for them.
You have to be very adaptable. Some practices are in very deprived areas, where patient behaviour and disease prevalence is completely different to more wealthy areas.
Not only are the patients different but GP surgeries themselves are very variable ; different personalities, different ways of working, different IT software, different ways of doing letters. You have to be able to hit the ground running when you start a new job, adapt to new ways of working, whilst sticking to the 10 minute appointments.
Locumming can also be lonely. You have to be a real people person and make an effort with all of the new faces – staff and patients alike. If you don’t, you could find yourself very isolated
Being financially organised is also necessary. You will have to generate invoices, keep on top of tax payments, ensure pension forms are completed, and make sure that you have been paid.
Do you ever get tempted to advise practices on how to run themselves?
Of course! I know how to run a practice, I have done it before and being a locum, I have seen many ways of doing it, the good and the bad. I think constructive criticism in this way is very important for the improvement of general practice.
It can often fall on deaf ears, everyone thinks they know best and as a locum you often have very little influence. Some practices however have taken on board some of my suggestions which is very rewarding.
How do you feel about the career change, are you happy you made it?
I am pleased that I made the change. I am now free to focus my time on improving patient health rather than navigating red tape and trying to make the money go further for the practice. I am much happier.
The one thing that is tough is the uncertainty. Locums are facing a great deal of uncertainty right now. Are practices going to be happy to pay the 14% superannuation top-up for example? This is something that is worrying a lot of locums right now because it may either result in a drop in pay or reduced locum use.
Are you a partner with a similar experience? or just someone with an opinion on the subject- please comment!
CEO Network Locum (now Lantum)