GP practices will be able to be confident they are not paying over the odds for locum cover under a new ‘preferred supplier’ scheme launched by the Government.
The Cabinet Office has vetted and signed up 20 locum agencies to a scheme that will see practices guaranteed a maximum price for cover for the first time.
Practices will also be able to run mini-tenders between suppliers to drive prices down.
The move comes at a time when locum agencies are offering locums for up to £1,500 a day, although this was for bank holidays and last-minute booking.
The Medical Locums Framework has been running for hospital doctors for four years, but the new framework includes GPs for the first time and the Government hopes will drive down costs for practices.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: ‘The Medical Locums framework provides healthcare organisations with cost-effective access to pre-approved agencies for the supply of medical locums.
‘This framework sets out maximum rates to be paid by customers for grades and specialisms and specifies commercial terms and conditions to make the buying process as easy as possible.
‘Customers are free to buy directly from suppliers on the framework, or introduce further competition between suppliers within the framework via a smaller tender process if they wish.’
Practices will still be able to recruit locums from outside the framework, the spokesperson confirmed.
The agencies in the framework will complete the vetting process for the locums and will take responsibility for locums used from other agencies when making up any shortfall.
But Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chief executive of the National Association of Sessional GPs, said it was unlikely the scheme would improve the way GP locums worked.
He said: ‘The problems relating to the locum market are not with practices having to do checks.
‘The number one problem facing the locum market is professional isolation. That has an effect on quality, recruitment, retention.’