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How to prepare for your first day as a locum GP

Dr Surina Chibber gives advice for new GPs starting out as a locum

I still remember my first locum session as a new GP. On the surface I was calm but inside my heart was pounding at the thought of the clinic ahead. I cast my mind back to my first day as a GP trainee. I realised that despite three years of training, sitting my AKT and CSA, I felt totally unprepared for the next few hours ahead of me. Despite the fact that I overran by 45 minutes, the session passed in a blur. I have come a long way since that first day and I feel that with preparation and experience my locum sessions run a lot more smoothly. Here my tips for preparing for your first day of locum work, as a new GP. 

Preparing your doctor’s bag

There is great variability as to what equipment will be available to you when you arrive at a practice. When preparing your doctor’s bag it is worth thinking about what you need for a typical surgery and home visits. Alongside your BNF and textbooks it is worth considering these key items:

  • Stethoscope
  • Auroscope
  • Ophthalmoscope
  • BP Machine
  • Gloves
  • Tongue depressors
  • Tape measure
  • Thermometer
  • Pulse oximeter
  • Urine dipstick
  • Urine pots
  • Glucometer
  • Peak flow meter
  • Lubricant

Key Questions

To ensure you are well prepared for your first session at a new practice here is a useful checklist of key questions to ask:

  • What is the extension number for reception? This is so you can contact them directly with any queries during your session.
  • Where is the panic button? This is important in case of an emergency.
  • How do I call patients in?
  • How do I request blood tests and where are these done (on site or local hospital)?
  • How do I order X-rays and Ultrasounds?
  • How do I refer for physiotherapy and counselling?
  • Where are MED3, MATB1 and maternity exemption forms kept?
  • How do I create referrals? Some practices require you to type your own referrals, others will provide you with a dictaphone. My tip with referrals is to do them at the end of the session so that you keep to time when seeing patients.

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pulse gp jobs article link 580x40px

Dealing with uncertainty

When working at a new practice arrive 15 minutes early and introduce yourself to key staff. I would often introduce myself to the other doctors at the practice before a session.They were always happy to help with questions when I was stuck. I also ensured the room was ready with enough printer paper and spare prescription pads. Always ask for a locum pack when you arrive and give yourself time to go through it before starting. More information on getting started as a new locum GP can be found on the resources section of

These simple steps will help support you through the uncertainty of your first session. With more experience you will get faster, more confident and ultimately more independent, as a new GP

Dr Surina Chibber is a sessional GP in West London, co-founder of, involved with Hounslow CCG and a healthcare tech developer. You can follow her on Twitter @dr_surina

Read more in Pulse’s locum guide here

  • Read Dr Jameel’s tips on starting out as a locum GP here and here
  • Read the first blog from Pulse’s secret locum here

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Readers' comments (11)

  • Azeem Majeed

    Thanks Surina, very helpful advice for locums.

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  • Where's Optimus?

    Control the appointment list or the list will control you
    Make sure the bookings are appropriate
    insist double for interpretor appts
    the end time does not mean another apt
    I always insist on the last 10 min being left free for session gen admin
    be clear with the agency what you will do or will not do
    Beware the abusive practices who will divert all and sundry to the locum first
    so called getting their monies worth
    If the agency states you will do 2 visits
    you can bet your bottom dollar you will be asked to do the first two
    I no longer do visits as they are just tooo time consuming
    be clear on admin work
    a 10 minute slot does not mean you can deal with a thick wad of scripts
    scripts are more risky medicolegally
    sign the straight forward ones but the potentially medicolegally ones are done if time permits

    If you find the other doctors have lots of free slots
    insist that they see anyone who turns up v late

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  • Where's Optimus?

    - Time management is vital
    - Remember you have commutes to factor in esp if at different places morning and afternoon
    - Good sat nav
    - Local food and petrol sites vital
    - Locuming is medicolegally risky
    - Be aware and keep good notes

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  • Also please keep with you at all times a copy of the old CV that you all used at the time of applying for a GP training position - (where you all claimed that you wanted to become GPs because you wanted to provide continuity of care to your patients) - and keep referring to this CV all the time while you work as a Locum. Do your best, even as locum GPs, to provide continuity of care to your patients (doing this will definitely make you better clinicians) and do not simply say to your patients - ''Go and see your own GP if you want ...... because I am just a locum''.

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  • To 21 Jul 2016 4:37pm
    Dear newly qualified GPs, the license you have all been give to practice is a license to serve and not a license to earn. To become a good clinician, you should not cherry which patients you would like to see (even if some can be too time consuming) because the only way you can all one day become safe doctors is when you get exposed to a wide variety of patients.

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  • The most important thing is that the locum turns up at all.
    We have hired a few that may have had well stocked doctors bags,which we never got the chance to inspect.

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  • Where's Optimus?

    Many patients appreciate a good locums fresh insights and proactive approach to test treat refer...
    Many patients these days have a list of conditions and symptoms
    When they see that the LOCUM is good
    You can get inundated with the representation of them all

    Continuity of care these days is maintained by keeping good notes.. Something All doctors need to do.

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  • Where's Optimus?

    Ways in which some practices set up the LOCUM to underperform
    1. Give them the most inaccessible room and expect the doc to have a long walk to go and call the patient in
    2. Give the most unorganised unstocked messy room
    3. Do not have the computers turned on
    4. Do not have log ins ready
    5. Book the maximum possible 10min patients
    6. Point 5 is ok if everyone has the same ..but is insulting when regular staff have longer spots or regular catch up slots
    7. Expect the LOCUM to fill in all blood test request forms when
    There is no access to online test requesting
    8. No car parking for the LOCUM
    9. Internal phone call to reception leading to the number selection spiel and waiting que of patients trying to get an appt
    10. Late arrivals and those who apparently did not book in correctly expected to be seen

    If Practices could try to avoid the above
    Locums would be most appreciative
    And you will get a lot better service

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  • On my GP training application CV..
    I stated..
    I want to wear a cardigan
    Play golf
    Drive a Land Rover Chelsea tractor
    Make sarcastic comments online (Anonymously)
    The interviewers
    looked at each other
    ....... You're in

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  • Where's Optimus?

    Please do not bulk up LOCUM packs with totally irrelevant padding
    All we need is a local telephone list
    Smoking cessation
    Alcohol drug support
    Crisis team
    Ambulance routine

    Practice specific preferences / in house specialities
    Internal directory

    Prescribing preferences

    Location of toilets kitchen door codes if appropriate

    Window key if locked esp on hot days


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