One of the benefits of working with a wide range of doctors is hearing the differing opinions on the challenges facing primary care. As a recruiter, resourcing issues are obviously of most interest to me and it’s fair to say there is widespread nervousness from practices about GP recruitment. If you are a PM/partner reading this, I’d welcome your opinion!
Working with locums gives us a special perspective, I believe. We all know it is a “seller’s market” and that the locums hold the balance of power due to demand. We also all know that locums are generally a temporary solution to the wider issue of trying to find permanent GPs.
One of the most common consequences of this phenomenon is for the stronger locums and junior salaried GPs being offered partnerships. As a GP, it may well have happened to you. Initially, as an outsider, this scenario surprised me given how much experience partners have historically required, but then I realised it is probably an unsurprising consequence of this widespread recruitment challenge.
So, how would other industries approach this? Would a law firm or accounting practice react to recruitment challenges by lowering the bar to partnership? Having worked extensively in those markets, I am not sure they would. Partnership is more than a title or status; it is a position of high responsibility and commercial duty requiring way beyond the (very demanding) capabilities of a GP.
Several practices I have worked with will surely agree with that sentiment, having lost inexperienced partners who, simply, were not ready for it. Taking partnership too early damages the practice, the doctor and, of course, the patient.
For many GPs, partnership is the obvious career target and so the appeal to such offers is self-evident. As a locum agency I acknowledge we have a vested interest in this matter. However, our (young) company is at pains to work with practices and locums alike to encourage long-term thinking, where high quality locums can be sourced, introduced and integrated into a practice, leaving the door open to salaried posts then partnerships.
Integral to the success of this notion is that same old problem: an ever-drier pipeline of GPs. I am sure the Rt Hon Mr Hunt has a flawless solution in mind for this. Whilst we wait for that to present itself though, I believe practices need to invest time and energy in finding and nurturing the best locums. It may well prove time very well-spent.