Sessional GPs

‘Sessional GP’ is an umbrella term to collectively refer to salaried and locum or freelance GPs.

Salaried GPs have a contract of employment and include the following-

  • Employed GP
  • salaried GP who undertakes special interest work (a GPwSI)
  • assistant
  • associate
  • GP retainee
  • Flexible Career Scheme GP
  • returner scheme GP
  • salaried GP employed to work out-of-hours.

A locum GP, is a fully qualified general practitioner who does not have a standard employment contract with the GP practice where he /she 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.

Locum GPs are self-employed professionals, therefore not entitled to sick leave or holiday leave. They obtain work by contracting their services directly with practices or through locum recruitment agencies. Recent changes in the regulations in United Kingdom allow them to form Limited Liability Companies.

Locum 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 locum GPs are usually contracted to cover temporary needs, it is not uncommon to find locum GPs working in practices for long periods of time, sometimes even years. They are an invaluable resource who support Primary care.

A typical session is equivalent to 4 hours 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.

Many GPs choose to practise as sessional doctors as a long term career choice which can also allow them to meet other personal commitment, while for others it is a lifestyle choice. There are an estimated 22,500 doctors in the UK working as sessional GPs

Representative organisations for sessional General Practitioners include:

Glasgow LMC is the representative body for all sessional GPs in Greater Glasgow & Clyde . We represent ALL General Practitioners including Partners, salaried, Retainees, Locums, Out of hours and GP Registrars. In addition to LMC guidance, sessional GPs can also gather helpful advice and information from a number of other groups / associations as listed below:

Thinking about a sessional career? What are the Pros and cons?


  • More flexibility in the working conditions: hours, days, type of work.
  • Practice more hands on medicine and reduce the bureaucratic burden posed on permanent GPs.


  • Pay and distance to work may vary significantly.
  • The need to adjust to different computer systems, local protocols and referral pathways.
  • Lack of control on the organisation of the workplace.
  • Additional Paperwork in order to access 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.

Professional Isolation

In July 2010, the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund (RMBF) published its report on sessional GPs entitled Support for Sessional GPs, 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.

This document is also available in the LMC Library below. The Medical Protection Society publishes an annual magazine for sessional GPs.

Greater Glasgow & Clyde Sessional Doctors

Glasgow LMC had 2 permanent positions for Sessional General Practitioners who are elected from the performers list in an election arranged by Nic Zappia’s office at Primary Care Support.

The LMC library below also holds a wealth of information to assist all disciplines of sessional General Practice including:

  • BMA Guidance on model Contracts
  • Information relating to the Glasgow Performers List
  • Links for the Glasgow Locum Group
  • BMA Newsletters for the Sessional GP Committee
  • RMBF paper relating to sessional GP Isolation

If you have any queries relating to sessional work then please contact the LMC offices and ask to speak to one of the medical secretaries.

National Association Sessional General Practitioners

The organisation has a chief executive officer, a business manager, and a council of seven members elected through national ballot. The group represents sessional GPs at a national level, provides support for members and for local sessional GP groups. The group is involved in lobbying other medical organisations to ensure equitable representation of sessional GPs.

The organisation publishes The Sessional GP, a bimonthly newsletter on topics relating to sessional GPs. It also acts as an umbrella organisation for approximately 65 local sessional GP groups. The organisation was founded 1997 by a group of Sessional GPs with the aim of representing all fully qualified GPs working as locums, assistants, salaried GPs, and retainers.

Sessional GP library