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Locum cover highest in areas of high deprivation

BMA warns of ‘real risk’ of unacceptable variation in the quality of care

Mark Gould

Monday, 13 June 2016

Patients in the most deprived areas of England face poorer levels of care due to an over-reliance on locum GPs, the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned.

The warning comes as an analysis by BBC News found in some parts of the country 18% of the GP workforce was made up of locums compared to a national average of 3.4%.

NHS Bradford City - the most deprived Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area in the country - had the second highest use of locum doctors with 18% of its GPs being classed as temporary practitioners in September 2015. In North Manchester, 7% of GPs were locums, in Barking and Dagenham 9% and in Sandwell and West Birmingham over 12%.

Dr Richard Vautrey the deputy chair of the BMA General Practitioners Committee, says patients in deprived areas face the prospect of receiving an inferior level of care. "There is a real risk of a variation in care quality between areas and that is unacceptable.

"There are CCGs that struggle to recruit GPs because there aren't enough doctors to go round. If practices are reliant on using locum doctors then patients don't get the continuity of care that they would otherwise get from a full time GP."

New data, collected for the first time by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, showed that, in September 2015, there were 1,321 locum GPs working in practices across England.

It also revealed that there were 34,055 full time equivalent (FTE) GPs, excluding locums, working within primary care in England. This is an estimated decrease of 1.9% (657) since 2014. The report also shows that in the GP practice workforce in England there were:

  • 15,398 FTE nursing staff, an increase of 2.2% (336) since 2014.
  • 9,149 FTE direct patient care staff, a decrease of 1.4% (129) since 2014.
  • 63,728 FTE admin/non-clinical staff, 0.5% fewer (328) than 2014.

NHS England says they acknowledge there is a growing issue with the use of locum doctors and have set out a plan to recruit 5,000 more full time GPs by the year 2020. It will spend an extra £206 million on boosting GP recruitment, which will see £20,000 bursaries made available in areas that have found it hard to recruit new GPs.

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