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15 September 2023

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How can we stop our locum GPs ‘cherry picking’ the work they do?

Advice from a recruitment specialist on how to ensure locums contribute in the ways your practice requires

Question from Management in Practice reader:

My practice uses GP locums frequently. We really value them and rely on their services. However, we have a regular issue of some clinicians not being flexible and won’t do home visits, take on a share of surgery admin and other tasks. How do we avoid this happening?

Answer from Ash Higgs, MD of MCG Healthcare:

Dealing with the nuances of locum management can be challenging, especially when there’s a sense of urgency around everything. The temptation to acquiesce to a locum GPs demands due to pressing needs may seem compelling, but considering alternative options is essential. When one or two locums receive ‘preferential treatment’ in terms of compensation or scheduling, it can potentially disrupt the harmony among other regular locum GPs who contribute to your practice. Maintaining fairness is crucial, not only for short-term interactions but also for cultivating a reputation as an equitable and consistent employer in the long run.

These are the steps we advise practices take to ensure locums are taking on the work responsibilities you need them to:

Setting Clear Expectations from the outset

When arranging sessions with a locum clinician’s, allocating time to discuss the expectations for their workday is paramount. Although this initial effort might seem time-consuming, ultimately it prevents ambiguities from arising and saves time in the future. Providing specific guidelines on administrative tasks and patient visits adds clarity and transparency to their role and minimises uncertainties.

Documenting agreements

After finalising how their workday will be structures, formalise the agreement in writing and ensure that the clinician acknowledges having read and understood it. This written record serves as a point of reference in case any discrepancies or uncertainties arise when working for you.

Thorough onboarding and training

A robust onboarding and training programme should not only cover medical aspects but also delve into the administrative and operational aspects of your practice. Equipping locum clinicians with a full understanding of how things work will empower them to navigate various responsibilities confidently.

Articulating the value of patient visits

The healthcare profession is driven by a commitment to patient care. When a GP declines to do a patient visit, it often stems from their dedication to maintaining safe and sustainable workloads. Recognising their concerns and discussing viable solutions can bridge the gap. In cases where the home visiting team is unavailable, emphasising the significance of a locum clinicians’ role in ensuring patient visits can continue may inspire a more positive response.

Navigating the local landscape

Understanding the dynamics of the local locum market is imperative. While you may offer an appealing work environment, neighbouring practices could have distinct advantages that you can’t match. Familiarising yourself with the local market allows you to leverage your practice’s strengths and unique attributes to attract locum clinicians. Factors such as reputation, compensation, and working conditions all contribute to a clinicians’ decision on whether or not to work for you and what tasks they are willing to take on.

Consistent feedback and open dialogue

Establishing open channels of communication is vital. Providing regular feedback on your locums’ performance and creating a platform for addressing concerns can cultivate a sense of collaboration and a willingness to adapt. More formal, regular performance assessments should be used to set new goals and recalibrate expectations.

Gather exit insights

Upon completion of a locum’s sessions/assignments, conduct exit interviews to gain insights into their experiences. This feedback can guide what improvements you should make in future.

In conclusion, effective locum management involves fostering fairness, setting clear expectations, documenting agreements, understanding local dynamics, and demonstrating the importance of patient visits. By adhering to these strategies, not only will it mean locums are covering the work you need them to, your practice can also cultivate a reputation that attracts and retains top locum talent.