Sessional GP

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A sessional GP, frequently called locum, is a fully qualified general practitioner who does not have a standard employment contract with the primary care health centre where he works. They are paid by the session, as a difference to the other two types of contractual relationship in a GP practice, salaried GPs and GP partners.[1]

Sessional GPs are self-employed professionals, therefore not entitled to sick leave, holiday pay or redundancy compensation. They obtain work by contracting their services directly with health centres or through temporary staff recruitment agencies. Recent changes in the regulations in United Kindogm allow them to form Limited Liability Companies.

Sessional GPs typically cover permanent doctors when on sick leave, maternity leave or holiday and fill the gaps between the moment a doctor leaves a practice and another permanent doctor is recruited. Although sessional GPs are usually contracted to cover temporary needs, it is not uncommon to find sessional GPs working in health centres for long periods of time, sometimes even years.

A typical session in United Kingdom is equivalent to 4 hours and 10 minutes of work, and frequently involves 2 to 2.5 hours of face to face contact with patients in 10 minutes appointments, followed by time for administration (reviewing correspondence from the hospital, reviewing blood test results, writing referral letters, triaging patient’s calls…) and doing home visits. Nowadays, many sessional GPs are only employed to undertake face to face consultations on 2 to 3 hours surgeries.

In order to practice as a sessional GP the doctor must meet all the requirements of a fully qualified GP, and the sessional GP must prove he maintains and updates his skills and knowledge to the same standard as a permanent GP.

Some GPs choose to practice as sessional doctors to allow them to meet other personal commitments, for example, mothers with small children, while for others it is a lifestyle choice.

There are an estimated 22,500 doctors in the UK working as sessional GPs.[2] In 2011 a report suggested the demand for such physicians is expected to increase as National Health Service reforms come into effect.[3]

Representative organisations[edit]

Pros and Cons[edit]


- More flexibility in the working conditions: hours, days, type of work.[4]

- In UK, as a form to practice more hands on medicine and reduce the bureaucratic burden posed on permanent GPs.


- Pay and distance to work may vary significantly due to market conditions.

- The need to adjust to different computer systems, local protocols and referral pathways.

- Lack of control on the organization of the workplace.

- In UK difficulties accessing the NHS Pension scheme.

- Difficulties related to participating only on a snapshot of the care of patients with long term medical conditions.

- Reluctance of some patients to be treated by doctors they are not familiar with.

- Professional isolation

In July 2010, the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund (RMBF) published its report on sessional GPs entitled Support for Sessional GPs,[5] highlighting the professional isolation of these general practitioners, and recommending the urgent need for professional support such a freelance GP chambers, and highlighting the benefits that meeting up regularly can bring, such as being part of a Self-Directed Learning Group (SDLG).

In March 2011, the RMBF convened a high level meeting in London with representatives from the British Medical Association, Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), Departments of Health from all four UK countries, and other GP representative organisations. As the outcome of that meeting, the RCGP agreed to take on the baton from the RMBF to reduce sessional GP isolation.


  1. ^ Titford, Ben (8 August 2012). "Who are the locums?". Retrieved 11 October 2014. 
  2. ^ "Introduction". …excluding locums. National Association of Sessional GPs. 2008. p. 2. Retrieved 4 March 2012. 
  3. ^ Stirling, Alisdair (31 March 2011). "Commissioning to prompt GP recruitment boom as consortia chiefs warn: 'We're spread too thin'". Pulse. Retrieved 4 March 2012. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Morrow, Gill; Kergon, Charlotte; Wright, Paula (July 2010). "Support for Sessional GPs" (PDF). The Royal Medical Benevolent Fund. Retrieved April 18, 2012. 

External links[edit]