According to a survey by GPonline nearly one in five GPs (19%) said the proportion of shifts at the practice or practices where they work had increased significantly over the past 12 months, with a further 34% reporting a slight increase.
Just 15% of the 413 GPs who responded to the poll said reliance on locums had dropped over the past year - with the rest reporting no change. Among GP partners, 23% said the proportion of shifts filled by locums had increased significantly over the past year, the survey found.
Previous polling by GPonline has found a rise in shifts filled by locums in both 2017 and 2018. The trend comes as numbers of GPs in partnership roles continues to fall - and locum rates continue to rise.
Responses to the survey suggested that despite rising use of locums, demand was such that practices would have brought in more if they had been able to find available doctors.
One GP responding to the latest survey said: 'We would have had more locums if we could get them. They are like unicorn poo in rural Wiltshire.'
Several other respondents also commented on the need for more locums and the struggle to recruit. One said: 'There are no locums available to fill slots, if there were we would use a lot more.'
GP workforce data published earlier this year showed that general practice is currently losing around 100 partners a month, and that the number of partners in England has slumped by more than 3,000 since late 2015.