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Locum consultants must be qualified, RCS says

The Royal College of Surgeons has warned trusts not to fill locum consultant positions with doctors ineligible to be called a consultant.

It blames the European Working Time Regulations saying trusts are struggling to find appropriately qualified locums to plug the many rota gaps created by a 48-hour week.

All patients should be able to expect the same standard of care whether they are treated by a locum surgeon or a permanent member of staff, the RCS says.

Only surgeons who are on the specialist register, or those within six months of completing recognised surgical training, are suitably qualified for locum consultant positions.

New guidance recommends that trusts do not extend locum surgeon appointments for longer than a year, as long-term cover is best provided by fully qualified surgeons working in permanent posts that provide stability to a department.

Mr John Black, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “Locum surgeons are supposed to be employed to cover short-term absences in hospitals, but with the added pressure on surgical rotas caused by the European Working Time Regulations, the NHS is being forced to seek out alternative solutions in order to plug long-term gaps. The result is that some NHS hospitals are being staffed by inappropriately qualified or inexperienced, locum surgeons.”

Building on existing guidance, Locum surgeons: Principles and Standards, outlines what the RCS expects of both the trusts who employ the services of locums – either directly or through agencies – and of the locum surgeons themselves.

Employers have a responsibility to check the qualifications and skills of locum surgeons and ensure that individuals are aware of local policies and procedures.

Mr Chris Milford, author of the standards document and RCS council member said: “Locum surgeons perform an essential role within the NHS, covering periods of expected and unexpected leave or high demand to ensure that patients are provided with surgical care. This guidance reminds trusts, locum agencies and, locum surgeons that they should be complying with standards the RCS expects of all surgeons, including participating in outcome reporting and preparations for revalidation.”

Read the standards.

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One Response to “Locum consultants must be qualified, RCS says”

  1. Dr Umesh Prabhu says:

    It is easy for the Royal College to give this advice as they don’t carry the can for waiting list, waiting time, payment by result and so on. Trusts are struggling to recruit doctors for many specialities. We don’t get any applicants for Haematology, Dermatology and we end up paying huge amount for locums. No Trust wants to appoint unqualified doctors or ‘poorly performing doctors’. In an ideal world, I would like every doctor to be fit to practice and fit for the purpose for which they are appointed so that our patients can get the best care.

    But, sadly there is still shortage of trained and qualified doctors in many specialities. If we want to maintain the quality then we should train all doctors properly to do a good job and we got to make sure that there is 10% excess of doctors then we need so that we can maintain the quality of doctors and avoid wasting money by paying huge amount to locum doctors.

    Of course, there are many locum doctors who do brilliant job and NHS should be grateful to them. But because of shortage of doctors now many good doctors are also doing Agency locums because the money they can make.

    Sadly during these economic challenges many Trusts are spending lot of money of locum doctors and it is high time that Deaneries, Colleges and others get the balance between the demand and supply of doctors right.

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