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How to prepare for your first day as a locum GP

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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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