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Locums are copying the legal profession and organising themselves in ‘chambers' in a bid to improve working relationships with practices.
Funded by members contributing a portion of their income, the not-for-profit organisations will undertake locums' non-clinical administration and distribute work.
The move could cut costs for practices who will only need to make a single call to secure cover.
Pallant Medical Chambers, based in Chichester, Hampshire, has 12 members but has laid out plans to attract several hundred locum GPs in order to serve large areas and wrest control from profiteering agencies.
In return for quality-assured doctors, client practices have agreed to give patients written profiles of the locum they are about to see, and will provide standardised equipment and door nameplates.
Dr Richard Fieldhouse, one of the founders of the chambers and chair of the National Association of Sessional GPs, said it had ‘totally changed' locums' work. He said: ‘It's been sorting out the perennial problems for locums, and there's a lot more professionalism in what we do.'
‘I spent time trying to persuade PCTs this was the way forward but in the end I had to do it myself.'
Dr Robbie Coull, a GP locum in Scotland, said chambers represented a real opportunity for locums and practices but warned it would not be welcome by everyone.
‘I think the death of the singlehanded locum is on the horizon,' he said.
Dr Harry Yoxall, a GP in Taunton, Somerset, said he preferred the new ‘co-operative' approach chambers offered.
‘I think the quality will be higher. It's in their interest to make sure it is,' he said.
Dr Kailash Chand, a GP
in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, was worried chambers were another extension of the privatisation of the NHS.He said initial offers of better services for lower cost might soon disappear once competition was eliminated. ‘My paranoia tells me they want to build up a power base.'