Nearly half of all newly qualified GPs leave within five years. And it’s increasingly the case that large numbers of these are leaving to take up better-paid posts as locums. The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has now relaxed visa rules for foreign-trained doctors. But this hardly solves the problem of so few new GPs being retained in permanent positions.
Even within locum work, short-term assignments are preferred to long-term locum positions. The UK is heading for a crisis in GP resourcing as demands on surgeries rise while the number of GPs available falls.
Fewer GPs and Fewer Hours
There are a number of reasons for these retention problems. Many GPs have been retiring in their 50s, because they get penalised by the tax system if they continue to pay into their pensions. The King’s Fund, quoted by the BBC, has said that between 2005 and 2014, the number of GPs aged between 55 and 64 leaving the profession doubled.
And in 2009, the average GP worked four and a half days a week. That has now reduced to four days a week.
Range of Reasons for Popularity of Locum Work
Younger people joining as newly qualified GPs want more flexibility in their hours. GP locum jobs from http://www.thegplocumagency.co.uk/ give them a lot more control over their hours.
Furthermore, locum positions allow a GP to gain experience of different practices and may allow them to pick the job of their choice if they do decide to go for a permanent position.
Then there’s the question of property prices. GPs want to buy their own property and know that by saving a large deposit by doing locum work and then later moving into a permanent job, they can get a better mortgage deal.
Work Pressure a Major Factor
Undoubtedly, the pressures of the job are a major factor in GPs leaving. Much of the bureaucracy that established practices have to fund and comply with doesn’t affect locum GPs. So they are able to spend a greater proportion of their time on purely medical work and a lesser proportion on management.
We are going to need to address this issue, because at the moment locum work is clearly an attractive option compared to joining a practice on a permanent basis.