Question: I run a GP surgery where we’ve become heavily reliant on locums recently but patients are starting to complain about the lack of continuity in the care they’re receiving. How can we break the cycle?
Andrew Dean says...
A GP surgery is a business and the use of locums on a prolonged, consistent basis does not make sense. It does not make financial sense; it is costing you a huge amount of money, and will have an effect on the profitability of your business. It is also going to have an effect on your patients, their wellbeing and how they interact with you as a surgery. Happy, grateful patients make for a more pleasant working environment.
A lot of GPs I speak to still value long-term relationships with their patients; properly understanding patient history helps with diagnoses and better health outcomes. Fostering relationships with patients also means building trust and better satisfaction levels; for you and for them.
How can you break the cycle?
Are you spending time on trying to find the best people for your surgery? GPs that value what you are doing and choose to commit long-term? The recruitment of key personnel should be one of the primary components of your business plan. You owe it to yourself to obtain quality long-term employees. Whilst it is not easy, and I hear a lot of ‘we don’t have the time’, most practice decision makers would make the time if they fully understood the longer term implications of not taking the recruitment process seriously.
I constantly hear: "we’re using a long-term locum" or "we’re plugging the gap with a "long-term locum". The term is an oxymoron; a locum, by the very definition, should be temporary cover for a permanent position. I’ve spoken to many surgeries where the use of locums is preventing them from making a permanent hire, which would save the practice money and increase levels of care.
If you do have a locum or locums working with you, that are particularly valued, the most logical first step is approaching them and having a chat about converting them to a permanent position. However, do not leave the invitation open-ended (in terms of time-frames); this could result in a costly delay, and potentially mean that you miss out on available candidates. If they are not prepared to commit, you need to move on and pursue other options.
When you do make the decision to recruit, bear in mind that you need to think not only about attracting and recruiting, but actually what happens when this person joins the surgery.
Recruitment is tough enough in the current climate, once you have the right person, the key is developing a proper on-boarding and retention strategy. By doing so, you’ll reduce the frequency by which you need to recruit and you’ll increase the profitability and quality of your practice, by retaining high-calibre individuals that share your vision and long-term goals.