GP sessions: a guide for locum and salaried GPs

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

GP sessions refer to the individual periods of time spent on the provision of patient care. 
In this article, we’ve put together information on what a GP session is and the recommended GP session length, in line with regulatory standards. 

What is a GP session?

A GP session is the time GPs work directly with patients. A standard working week for a full-time GP within the NHS comprises of eight sessions. This is the equivalent of four days. 

As a GP, you’ll carry out a certain number of patient appointments within these sessions. This means you can allocate appropriate amounts of time to each person and ensure that your job role is defined in clear terms. 

How long is a GP session?

The BMA (British Medical Association) sets the standards for how long a GP session lasts. This is to ensure safe practice, for both the patient and GP, and also to maintain quality of care. 

A GP session length, as specified by the BMA, is four hours and 10 minutes. They recommend that within this time, a maximum of three hours needs to be dedicated to patient consultation. The BMA also advises that sufficient time must be taken for breaks, in line with the EWTD (European Working Time Directive). 

Along with the European Union of General Practitioners, the BMA also recommends a maximum daily number of patient contacts. This currently stands at no more than 25, although many sessional GPs may exceed this in busier times. 

The standard amount of time for individual GP appointments is most commonly 10 minutes in length. However, the BMA proposes that 15-minute appointments will more adequately satisfy patient needs and reduce the number of repeated consultations. 

Advice and information for salaried GPs

There are measures you can take to ensure that your employer’s requirements are clear and that your workload is as stable as possible too. This means you will be paid a fair amount for the sessions you work, with protection in writing from unpaid overtime. 

Before commencing work with any practice, it is a good idea to have the role’s expectations set out in writing within a job plan. You can speak to the employer about signing a contract to get these terms in writing. This can include the following information around sessions: 

  • The number of patients you will conduct appointments with during each session 
  • The nature of appointments that will take place in a session 
  • The length of appointments 
  • The maximum GP session length 
  • Latest daily appointment time (that will adhere to the end of your session)

Advice and information for locum GPs

As a locum GP, you have more flexibility over the hours you work and more variety in your schedule. However, you still need to have clear boundaries in place to manage workloads and maintain high professional standards. 

When it comes to locum work, the way you approach sessions will be slightly different. You’ll be employed for a specific number of sessions. You may also be working sessions for multiple employers, depending on the number of placements you want to take on. This means that, for example, you could be working one session at one practice in the morning, and another session for a different practice in the afternoon. 

You’ll need to be very clear on the time your sessions and appointments need to start and finish, in order to fulfil the commitment to each employer. This ensures both patient satisfaction and the avoidance of needing to charge extra for exceeding the expected workload. 

Are you looking for your next job opportunity?

At GP World, we connect salaried and locum GPs with exciting job opportunities at some of the UK’s biggest healthcare organisations. Our dedicated specialists are also here to offer advice and guidance as you move forward in your career. We can help manage your job search, so you can focus on doing the work you love. 

Register with GP World today to start being put forward for roles and speak to one of our GP recruitment experts. 


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