An Interview With Zoe Norris
10th November 2016 • Interview
Dr Zoe Norris is one inspirational lady. She manages to juggle several roles very effectively, is not afraid to voice her opinions, and is open and honest to boot. These attributes made her a prime candidate for her new role as BMA chair for the sessional GP subcommittee. I, for one, am very glad to see that she is representing us and giving us a voice as sessional/ locum GPs.
I have been lucky enough to chat with her about what has lead her to where she is now, and her exciting new role.
Hi Zoe, I understand that you are a very busy lady! Please can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the different roles that you hold?
I currently work 7 sessions, and do a mix of things each week. I work through Yorkshire Medical Chambers as a locum, I’m a GP appraiser, a presenter for NB Medical Hot Topics courses, and I am clinical lead for exceptional treatment requests at Hull CCG. On the political side I am chair of the sessional subcommittee of GPC UK, and sit on my LMC (Local Medical Committee) in Humberside as a sessional member. I had a big change of direction after getting burnout badly about 18 months ago, and needed to make general practice a career that was sustainable for me, my health and my family as well as being able to be a good GP for patients. This is how I do it.
How do you balance these roles with family life?!
It sounds a bit crazy when you look at all the roles, but actually this only works because of the flexibility I have as a locum. I fix my days off which helps, and I have childcare commitments on those days so I stick to it apart from exceptional circumstances. Everything else fits around that, so I swop a clinical session for an appraisal, have fixed days at GPC, and when the hot topics courses are running everything else gets put on hold so I can give that all my energy. I have an amazing non-medic husband, and we spend a lot of time trying to get the balance right. It’s hard and I have the same guilt all parents do about not being there often enough. I suspect that never goes.
You were recently elected BMA chair for the sessional GP subcommittee, can you outline what this role involves?
The sessional subcommittee is elected from across the UK, and both BMA and non-BMA members can vote. It represents anyone who isn’t a partner i.e working as a salaried or locum GP, including those working in out of hours or prisons. As chair, as well as having responsibility for my region in Yorkshire, I lead for GPC on issues relating to sessional GPs. That’s everything from trying to sort out the capita pensions disaster, to producing guidance, and meeting with NHS England and HEE about training and recruitment.
What have been the challenges so far?.
Learning how the internal structures at GPC and the BMA work; dealing with vast amounts of emails from all the different listservers (email lists) that I am on; getting a mixed welcome based on what people think they know about me, and dealing with my own imposter syndrome!
What are the main issues for sessional GPs that you are currently dealing with?
I have three main concerns. Firstly, indemnity, which is very much not resolved as far as sessional GPs are concerned. Telling locums to put their prices up to access the indemnity funding is ridiculous, and there is no formal agreement as to how much funding will be passed on from practices to salaried colleagues. Things are so hard at the moment and financial pressures so high, practices may have no choice but to use that money elsewhere. It’s unrealistic to think a short term boost solves an issue that is driving people out of medicine.
Secondly, and related to that is the rise of new alternative providers of indemnity. A lot of employers are offering their own schemes and there isn’t enough guidance out there as to what to look for. GPs are taking out these apparently cheaper policies, then falling foul and finding they are not covered in the event of a complaint. I’d encourage anyone who is considering one of these to contact the BMA or us at the subcommittee.
Lastly, the new contracts we are seeing from MCPs and STPs. In new models of care, there is a definite move away from the salaried model contract which is a disaster and I want to be really clear that any salaried or sessional GP must ensure they have that as the minimum if they are working in any new model of care.
How do you see things evolving in the future for the sessional GP? We are a growing body of people and we want to be heard!
I’m trying to address this feeling that we are part of the problem not part of the solution. Dividing the profession doesn’t help anyone. People make a choice to do sessional work for lots of reasons. Forcing them into roles they don’t want doesn’t help. But sessional GPs need to be at the forefront of the decisions that are being made. Too many areas of STPs are going ahead with plans without consulting the LMC let alone any dedicated sessional GPs. They will fail if they don’t do this.
How can we best follow what is going on and being discussed on our behalf and how can we have a say? The best way of keeping up to date is to look out for the monthly newsletter from the sessional subcommittee, follow @BMA_GP on twitter, and getting in touch with your LMC. A quick google will find the details, and they are almost always keen to get more sessional GPs involved. In the future, representation for the profession will probably come more from LMCs, so sessionals have to get involved to make sure our voices are heard. Or tweet or email me –