Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Helping Hand – Top Rules for Doctors Locums by Brendan Hannigan

Becoming a doctor's locum is a pretty well accepted and commonplace way to broaden one’s employment opportunities in the UK medical profession. Done properly, locum positions offer excellent solutions both to understaffed hospitals and surgeries and to itinerant doctors in need of work. With several high profile cases making recent news, whereby doctors locums have perhaps been introduced to a job or qualified position they were not best fitted for, an attention to correct procedure is paramount in order for patients and surgery/hospital alike to get the best out of their locums. Accordingly, best practice dictates that all locations, employment bodies and, of course, itinerant staff, follow these rules for doctors locums.

At first glance, it’s not too easy to find a standardised or official set of rules, codes of conduct and so on for doctors locums in the UK. In part, that’s because there isn’t one. There are different rules for locum doctors coming in from outside of the EU and those coming into the UK from within the EU: which means, as a whole, that the structure of requirements for doctors locums are asked to meet is not standardised. That, in turn, means that best practice tends to govern the way EU doctors locums are accepted into individual bodies (buildings, hospitals, surgeries and employment agencies) across the British Isles. With no set rules for doctors locums governing incoming EU medics, the only way an establishment can be sure that a doctor or nurse is suited for the work they want to give them, is to run their own tests.

Currently, a doctors locums coming to work in Britain from outside the EU is required to pass a series of stringent tests, both with regards to their ability to understand and communicate in the English language, and their actual fitness to perform the medical jobs for which they are applying. These tests include severe exams, both written and practical, held at the GMC (General Medical Council) headquarters in the UK. Here, the rules for doctors locums entering UK practice from outside the EU are hard and fast. Pass all the tests, theoretical and practical, or be denied the opportunity to practice.

EU medics, on the other hand, are required only to possess what is seen as equivalent qualifications. Medical degrees and certificates that allow EU doctors to practice in their own country, are allied to “equivalent” qualifications in UK medicine – so an EU doctor may not have to prove his or her actual practical ability to use medicine according to UK standards.

That said, organisations like MPP Locums, a UK based recruitment and training agency for overseas doctors, have developed their own standards, by which doctors who otherwise might have slipped through the examinations net can be graded. These are, in effect, the best rules for doctors locums coming from within the EU that the UK has: whilst unofficial, they have been set up specifically to avoid the unfortunate occurrences that have made the news in recent months. As such, they are in some ways even more stringent than the nationalised tests for non EU doctors – the good locums organisations don’t want to be caught out, and so their in house rules are as tough as they can make them.

Overall, a message is slowly coming clear. There might not be EU standard rules for doctors locums coming into the UK – but British organisations who deal with EU locums are going to make sure they are tested correctly anyway.