04 Dec Locum loving GP
“You know what’s the problem with you, young GPs? You’re spoilt and fussy. You move from one surgery to another doing a half-hearted job.”
A senior GP once said this when we were discussing the junior doctor strikes. She was especially irritated by the fact a large proportion of my GP colleagues didn’t want to take up fixed GP positions once they finished training and instead preferred to locum.
Now, here I am at the end of my GP training, pondering the arguments for and against becoming a “career locum”.
Permit me to put my “fussy” hat on for a moment.
1) I want to be paid as much as possible for the work I do. (Is that a bad thing to say?) What is it about being a doctor that means you cannot talk about the fact empathy does not pay the bills, GMC fees or extortionate indemnity. Hold on to your stethoscopes everyone, here comes a shocking statement…I work because I need money. Locuming gives me more money.
2) I worry about being trapped in one place. We’ve spent years at medical school and throughout training being moved around against our control from one place to another. I’m used to it. In fact the thought of being fixed in one place somewhat frightens me. What if I get bored? What if the other doctors/staff are weird? What if my priorities change and I need some time out? Locuming gives me more choice and freedom.
3) I want to be able to work flexibly so that I can see my children more than my parents ever could when they were young doctors. I chose this career knowing full well I’d spend many years studying, long hours and weekends working and certainly don’t expect it to be a walk in the park. But I also have a personal life. If I didn’t have one or don’t take the time to nurture it properly, I wouldn’t be able to work at all. My parents (like many) took early retirement from the NHS because of decades being overworked and exhausted. I won’t have the luxury to do the same. I want to pace myself. Locuming gives me that flexibility.
A colleague of mine once said “How can we be expected to take up fixed positions when we know the work volume and responsibility is higher, yet pay and flexibility are lower? We are not martyrs.”
Increasingly I find myself wondering whether this mentality, including my own, is damaging a wonderful profession. All this undoubtedly affects patient continuity of care, puts further financial/staffing pressures on already struggling GP surgeries and is detrimental to the team spirit/camaraderie that can actually increase our own satisfaction at work.
The other side of the coin
Locuming is unpredictable, it can be hard moving around when you have a family and I’m certainly going to miss being able to follow up that referral I made or seeing that pregnant mum from the last appointment proudly bringing her newborn in for its first checkup. I suppose the grass is not all that much greener…but then some might argue at least I can afford to buy better fertiliser.
Are First5’s a bunch of spoilt, fussy, money grabbing professionals or is the locum-loving trend just another result of the current low morale in a cash strapped healthcare system which is slowly failing its patients and staff?