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Sessional GP survey 2017

GP with patient

We want to understand the issues sessional GPs face in order to make sure discussions with government accurately address your needs.

"It cannot be healthy for the NHS that seven out of 10 sessional GPs are considering leaving the profession at a critical time..."

Zoe Norris, BMA sessional GPs committee chair

Read the press release

So we ran a UK- wide survey of sessional GPs which was open to respondents between 1 March and 6 April 2017.

Initially an email invitation was sent to to approximately 13,800 BMA members who were identified as working, or potentially working, as a sessional GP. We also used our social media channels to promote the survey more widely, including to non-members.

The survey received 2,079 responses and therefore achieved a nominal response rate of 15.1%.

Read more about the key findings from the survey below.

  • Who are sessional GPs ?

    • Practice employed salaried GPs and locum GPs responded in equal proportion – this is the biggest response from locums to a BMA survey.
    • More than four in 10 respondents reported working previously as a GP contractor/partner. Almost two-thirds of respondents stated they had reduced their hours/sessions and/or changed to a more preferred working pattern and more than one-fifth had begun to draw their pension.
    • Respondents to the survey were far more likely to be female (68%) than male (31%). Female respondents (81%) were most likely to be working as a practice employed salaried GP in their primary role although almost six in 10 female respondents were working as a locum (58%).
    • Male respondents were on average 49 years old compared to females 44 and the average age of all respondents was 46 years.


    Chosen option Frequency Per cent
    Reduced the hours or sessions worked 552 64.6
    Change to a preferred working pattern 550 64.4
    Begun drawing pension 243 28.5
    None of the above 112 13.1
  • Why choose to be a sessional GP?

    • Locums were most likely to say that control over their workload (35%) was the main reason for choosing to work in their current role. Female locums were most likely to have chosen their current role to suit their preferred working pattern (20%) or that partnership is too onerous/lacking reward (14%).
    20170530 Sessional survey finding graphs

    Click here to see full size version


    • Salaried GPs were most likely to cite their interest in working in one setting/providing continuity of care as their reason for working in their current role (22%). Male respondents were also relatively more likely to report being deterred from partnership (24%), female respondents were more likely to identify their working pattern (17%) or workload(12%).


    20170530 Sessional survey finding graphs

    Click here to see full size version

  • Why people choose not to be a GP contractor

    • Respondents overall most frequently cited a lack of control over their workload (62%) as a reason not to be or become a GP contractor. Female respondents were more likely to cite control over workload (64% versus 59%), the operational responsibilities of running a practice (53% versus 45%) and the insecurity of practice finances (53% versus 47%) than males.

    • These results are broadly in line with responses to the last major survey of the whole profession in November 2016, including the tendency for females to more frequently report control over workload and operational practice responsibilities as reasons for their current career.

    20170530 Sessional survey finding graphs

    Click here to view full size version

  • Motivation morale and workload

    • Locum GPs were the group most satisfied with their work-life balance, which aligns with their reasons for choosing to work in their current role.
    • Locum GPs reported the highest average morale in the survey, although this was only moderate.
    • Over half of all sessional GPs reported having felt unwell due to work-related stress in the last 12 months. Such symptoms were most likely to be among those working full time or in a salaried role in findings that compare closely with those of GP contractor/partners in a 2016 BMA survey.
    • More than one in 10 sessional GPs reported taking time off due to work-related stress in the last year.
    • Most respondents were of the view that the volume, intensity and complexity of their workload had increased in the last year – among sessional GPs this was most notable for practice employed salaried GPs.

    20170530 Sessional survey finding graphs

    Click here to see full size version

  • Future career intentions

    • Looking forward over five years, most respondents preferred career option would to be work as a portfolio GP. However, there was a tendency for most respondents to wish to remain in their current role. Working as a GP in a new care model was generally not viewed as attractive.
    • 56 per cent of salaried GPs have not received a pay increase in the past year.
    • 8 in 10 locums stated that they had not increased their sessional or hourly rate in the past year.
    • Seven out of ten sessional GPs indicated they were considering leaving the workforce, either by quitting the profession (28 per cent), moving overseas (25 per cent) or retiring early (17 per cent) if a locum cap was introduced in general practice. A further one in ten were considering taking a career break (8 per cent).
    • Increased earnings are unlikely to be an effective incentive to work in alternative locations. Six in 10 respondents would not move for any financial incentive or other reason.
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