In an effort to challenge the widespread perception that locum doctors present a greater risk to patients than their permanent counterparts, new research has been conducted by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. In light of these findings, we caught up with our Head of Clinical Services, Anne Anderson, to discover her thoughts on this news.
What are your views on the perception that locum doctors present a greater risk to patients than permanent doctors?
“The perception that locum doctors are not supported and clinically governed at the same level as substantive doctors still exists, unfortunately. It stems from the days before frameworks came along, when agencies dispatched doctors who may not have had any compliance checks, and prior to the rigorous checks now required for all doctors under revalidation.”
The research suggests the factors that affect the quality and safety of locum practice is linked with how they are deployed and supported by the organisations who use locum doctors. Does this reflect your experience?
“Yes, I agree with this. While we only place doctors who pass rigorous compliance processes, it is equally important that they are supported in their working environment. A great deal of emphasis is also placed on sharing information for development and reflective purposes and it is therefore important that NHS organisations support this through our structured feedback process; if this doesn’t happen then action can’t be taken, and lessons can’t be learned. This best practice is highlighted by Sir Keith Pearson in his Review of Revalidation for Doctors and is linked to revalidation and its application to locum doctors.
“But actually, it’s not up to hospitals to support locum doctors with clinical audits and revalidation matters; it’s up to agencies like us to take responsibility for this and support locums when needed. We have built robust processes that help investigate allegations against our locum doctors and therefore, support our clients in their accountability.”
What support can our locum doctors expect from us with a clinical governance issue?
“We have a robust clinical governance system delivered by a dedicated team of clinical professionals. Events include complaints, serious incidents, professional and competency concerns. Each event is dealt with confidentiality and with the utmost sensitivity. We mirror NHS event management processes so that we can work in partnership with our clients ensuring that we collaboratively achieve fair, appropriate and continuous improvement outcomes.
“As the Head of Clinical Services I have clinical oversight and support from our Responsible Officer Dr June Picton to ensure that we take the most appropriate approach. We may recommend further training or reflection and ensure that the event forms part of the doctor’s appraisal for revalidation. We also support doctors with GMC investigations, coroner’s courts, legal matters, patient complaints and general well-being for what can be a stressful job.”
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