Letters

Errors by locums

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7049.116b (Published 13 July 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:116

Each locum should carry a logbook

  1. Peter F Jones
  1. Emeritus clinical professor of surgery 7 Park Road, Cults AB1 9HR

    EDITOR,—There is an urgent need to review the rules that govern the employment of locum doctors in NHS hospitals. Examples of substandard practice given in the BBC Radio 4 programme File on Four on 6 April, the errors reported by John Warden,1 and recent personal experience all show the need for this. A working group on this subject reported to the chief medical officer at the Department of Health early in 1995,2 and its recommendations are still under consideration.

    These various reports show that the welfare of patients continues to be at risk because of the practice of some locums, and there is currently no effective system of communicating a warning of such experiences to potential employers of these locums. Reports on the performance of locums, most of whom provide a valuable service, must be fair, but the clear advice of the General Medical Council must be followed: “you must protect patients when you believe that a colleague's conduct, performance or health is a threat to them…the safety of patients must come first at all times.”3

    The working group's recommendations that each locum should carry a logbook and that a central register should be set up need carry no threat to those who are competent. This majority must accept that appointment committees apply strict criteria before employing clinical staff and that it is right that those who replace them temporarily should also be subject to scrutiny.

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