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Letter of the week: Locums deserve partners’ respect, not derision

Imagine trying to find an address on a Monday morning during rush hour.

Imagine parking in a car park where all the slots are taken.

Imagine entering a strange building, being ignored by brusque staff, being guided to a disorganised room, trying to log on to an unfamiliar computer system using unfamiliar software and calling your first patient.

How would you organise a blood test or an X-ray? Where are the urine bottles kept? How do you dictate a referral letter? What's the phone number for the local hospital?

This is not your own surgery – this is someone else's. You are not in the cosy comfort of your own consulting room, which over years you have adapted
to your personal modus operandi.

In this environment nobody caters for a mid-surgery break or your coffee preferences.

Instead you are expected to instantly acclimatise, hit the ground running and deal with a complement of patients like all the long-established doctors within that practice.

There is no camaraderie or mutual support network.
You have no idea of practice policies.

The CCG might as well stand for the County Cricket Ground for all the relevance it has.

It's like your first house job all over again – except nowadays you'd get some induction training for that. It's a living nightmare. Welcome to being a locum!

So what on earth makes us as GP principals feel so superior? Why do we think that our locum, here to help us out of
a fix, is some kind of second-class skivvy? What lies behind our unfounded sense of superiority and sometimes utter contempt for a fellow professional?

More often than not, a locum is a doctor who was never given the opportunity for partnership, following the drying up of such positions post 2004. Or it may be a lifestyle choice. Or a portfolio career.

What it is not, for the majority, is a failed career.

Locums deserve our respect, not our derision. They fill a role that is more than ever necessary in a primary care environment that is in a constant state of flux. 

So please think twice about how you treat your locums. Make them feel welcome.

At the very least, supply them with a civil greeting and an induction pack.

Make them feel welcome because – although they are being paid for their time – they are there at your invitation.

From Dr Jim Sherifi, Colchester, Essex