How can we better support locum doctors – and help them progress

In my last blog I looked at the challenges facing locums, agencies and ROs – and what implications they have for Trusts.

Now I’d like to look in more depth at how we can support locums and at the same time provide Trusts with the information and data which enables them to make informed decisions about which locums they engage with. Core to any consideration must be patient safety and processes need to demonstrate that locums meet compliance standards and have role specific competencies. At the same time there may be opportunity to develop and enhance pathways for locums to transit into substantive posts if that is a route they wish to take.

The variables

Locum doctors deployed on a flexible basis by Trusts are a widely varied group of professionals working within different specialities, with varying levels of experience and across many geographical locations.

The constants

Locum doctors must have a right to work, be licensed to practise by the GMC and engage in appraisal and revalidation process. Guided by GMC ‘Supporting Information for Appraisal and Revalidation’. To revalidate all doctors must carry out a multisource feedback (MSF) of patients and colleagues once in the five-year cycle.

The problems

Many locums have difficulty getting paid study leave, in gathering supporting information, colleague and patient feedback for MSF as well as performance feedback by senior or supervising clinicians on completed locum sessions. Many also experience deferral of their revalidation because ROs may have difficulty making a recommendation for someone for whom they have.  Inadequate supporting information and only short term connections. In addition to all this, there is the cost of appraisals.

There is currently little or no support structure, and no clear path to career development or training in new competencies, for locum doctors. They have no permanent base, few role models, are often excluded from normal networking facilities and may feel isolated and unsupported.

A solution

Such a hub could serve as an access point for sharing information between Trusts and locums. All locums could be registered through one organisation and a single data base could cover, for instance….

  • Ongoing education and training records
  • Networking through meeting and virtual chat rooms
  • Support in appraisals
  • Standardisation of processes
  • Storage and collation of all appraisals carried out
  • Support in gathering post-locum session feedback for CVs
  • Providing a gateway to Royal Colleges

I propose that this would be a permanent base where locums can be supported. They would have a facility where they would be able to update work experience, references and educational and training updates. This information would feed into compliance maintenance and act as a reassurance to Trusts on hub locums.

Bringing all this information together and providing a clear and solid structure for employment and career progression would solve many of the problems locums currently face.

A central data base would bring many benefits for Trusts too – not just by providing information to help them access the right locums with the right competencies and specialisations for the roles they are looking to fill.

It would also help Trusts reduce costs by streamlining processes, centralising back office functions relating to locum recruitment, overcome geographical problems and helping to flag up problems and conditions.

I believe that NHS Professionals are ideally qualified and positioned to create and deliver such a hub as part of the locum recruitment and quality assurance process (I’ll be covering that in my next blog). It would also provide a way of tackling the underlying need to enable the transition of those locums who wish to become substantive staff into full time roles by gaining the training and qualifications which are currently difficult for them to access.

Let the debate begin!

Helen McGill, ‎Medical Director and Responsible Officer at NHS Professionals

About the author

NHS Professionals administrator

NHS Professionals manages the temporary staffing needs of around 66 NHS Trusts across England. An integral part of the NHS, it aims to reduce Trusts’ spending on flexible workers without compromising quality, by providing greater transparency of demand and supplying bank staff at the best possible rate. Its bank of more than 40,000 flexible workers comprises general and specialist nurses, doctors, midwives, admin/clerical , allied health professionals, healthcare scientists, support services among other healthcare professionals.

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