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How to woo and win the best locums

Dr Andrew Cole says practices must make sure they extend a warm and organised welcome to locums

was once greeted by a practice manager as follows: 'If you want tea, there's a trolley in reception. You can make your own.' The practice was slick and well organised, but I chose not to work there again.

How do practices get on to the 'A' list for the locums in their area? Sometimes it's just luck. However, ensuring the locum comes back means taking a bit of trouble and treating them with respect.

Here is my advice to practices.

 · Think about what you actually need. Most locums are flexible and will accept bookings for two-hour surgeries. But you must always allow for administration time, and for time to sort out problems the surgery has thrown up. And remember that a full-time locum needs to be paid for six hours most days, so

will do three two-hour surgeries in different places.

 · Listen to what the locums say with regard to their working environment.

 · Remember that as locums are freelance they do not have to see extras in addition to the agreed number in surgery. If this is work in addition to what was originally agreed, then an extra charge may well be made. It is inappropriate for a locum to have to discuss this sort of thing with a junior receptionist when the practice manager is not available.

 · Remember that some locums will not visit (they will say so on booking). Respect this. Remember that however small the visiting rate is for a practice, there always needs to be someone available to perform urgent visits. For the locums like me, who will visit, remember there is a limit to the number of visits most of us will perform.

 · Please don't cherry-pick visits so the locum gets all the outlying areas.

 · Provide all the information and forms a locum will require with a simple explanation of how the systems work. A locum file is useful, but not in two-lever arch files please. A practice 'locum pack' should contain all local details such as telephone numbers, referral pathways etc. An example of this can be seen on the National Association of Non-Principals website at www.nanp.org.uk

 · Make the locum part of the team. Introduce them to all staff. Make sure the locum is aware of who does what, and explain where the loo and fire

exits are.

 · Pay on time. Please don't expect credit. It costs £5,000+ per year in expenses to work as a locum. Please remember to get the cheques signed by the correct number of partners in good time. Have whatever receipts or claims forms the practice needs filled in ready for the locum's signature. I will not sign blank forms.

 · Appoint a responsible principal or other GP who will be available to answer queries. Provide contact details, including mobile phone number.

Stick to a few simple rules and a long relationship will develop. In my experience, good practices find locums clamouring to work for them.

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