To ensure staffing needs are met, whether because of unexpected shortages or due to planned cover, the use of locums is commonplace in many general practices. Our employment law partner, Croner, looks at steps you can take to ensure a positive locum experience.
While you may have a good general understanding of how to use and put locums in place, there are a number of practicalities you need to bear in mind to ensure the locum experience is positive and there is no detrimental impact to any colleagues or the provision to patients.
The first step is to ensure proper documentation is in place. While locums are self-employed positions, a formal locum agreement should be used to clarify the terms of the arrangement. It is key to ensure that any agreement in place is suitable for your particular practice and reflects how you operate. Not only will this document remind both parties of the obligations and rights during the locum relationship, it can also be used to clarify any areas, in order to avoid uncertainty or misunderstandings. For example, a description of the locum’s duties and the facilities that will be provided to them in each particular practice should be included.
Check them out
Before the locum commences their role, appropriate checks will have to be carried out to ensure they are capable and legally able to carry out the position. This will usually require a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, alongside ensuring the locum has sufficient indemnity cover and is registered to practise. Those who have responsibility for carrying out these checks need to ensure they fully understand the process of doing so, and how to act if the check is not satisfactory and the locum cannot take up the role.
When new employees take up employment, a key part of their onboarding process is to carry out an induction into their new role. A similar process should be carried out with locums, but can be slightly watered down. The reason an induction is so important is because it introduces the locum to the practice and ensures they have all the necessary information they may need, rather than expecting them to find this out by themselves or leaving them unaware of the internal procedures. Key HR areas to cover within each practice will be:
- Health and safety rules and obligations.
- Emergency procedures, such as fire.
- Data protection and confidentiality policies.
- The complaints and whistleblowing procedure.
Make them feel comfortable
The locum needs to feel comfortable with the working environment and those who they are working alongside. Therefore, a tour of the practice and an introduction to members of the team will be invaluable to help them settle in; a happy locum is likely to be a more productive and quality member of the practice.
It will be good practice to have a designated individual to whom the locum can speak if they have any concerns or questions. This may be the person who has designated responsibility for HR, such as the practice manager, or another member of staff who has sufficient responsibility to carry out an investigation.
When using locums, it is perhaps easier to dismiss any concerns or suggestions they raise because they are only with the practice for a short period of time, but practices should not have this attitude. A new pair of eyes can actually spot areas for improvement or bad practice that has gone unnoticed before. A full investigation should be carried out into any concerns raised by a locum, with further action taken as necessary. Feeding back to the locum will confirm that you have taken the matter seriously, and will ensure the future working relationship remains positive.
Practice Xtra members are always just a phone call away from free, expert advice on HR, employment law, health and safety and other business issues. To speak to an adviser simply call 0844 728 0035 and quote your practice ID and the Medical Protection reference number MPS 35810.