Just a Locum...the view from the GP's consultation room.
As well as working in event and expedition medicine, my day job involves working as a locum GP at several different GP surgeries.
Locum GPs are usually required as a result of staff shortages, sickness, or when established GPs take on new management roles. The are also valuable to provide cover when a doctor goes away on maternity leave.
Working as a locum can be challenging for both doctors and patients: there is undoubtedly a lot of frustration for patients, who may have to see a different doctor every time they have an appointment. Promoting continuity of care is becoming increasingly difficult, and patients will frequently ask:
"are you going to stay?...are you my GP now?"
It can be equally difficult and frustrating for the clinician, working within the logistical, time and funding constraints of the NHS. Indeed this is why many doctors choose to work in this capacity. Frustratingly for them, the reply is always the same:
"No, I am just a locum..."
But surely this is down-playing the importance of this role and also the challenges that it brings? Why do we say: just a locum? This phrasing alone has negative connotations.
The word locum is short for locum tenens, a latin phrase meaning "place holder."
The National Association of Sessional GPs estimate that GP locums perform 69 million NHS consultations per year, the equivalent of 1 in 5 GP appointments.
Consider if these doctors were not working. The NHS would grind to a halt.
However a quick look through Google when searching for "Locum GP" finds articles such as this, entitled
"How to we solve the problem of locum GPs?"
To be fair to the author, this article does bring up many valid concerns, regarding what is a very complex topic. I do not wish to get overly political, and you can read the counter argument here:
Both of these links are now a few years old, but they both agree on the main issue:
"You can’t dictate to the medical workforce how they work, you have to improve the environment." Dr Zoe Norris 3 April 2017
Sadly, this is yet to be addressed, and this is why many doctors choose to work in this capacity.
Personally the key deciding factor is the flexibility and variety, that I would otherwise not be able to have.
I could not see myself working in a consultation room for the majority of my working week from the time I gained my CCT until retirement. It is important to have variety in order to remain engaged and fulfilled by what we do, and to avoid burnout which is a growing problem in all walks of life but particularly in healthcare.
Yes, I am a locum GP...but this doesn't mean that I won't do my best to help you in the time that we have available.