Crackdown on locum doctors announced

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 30 August 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:501
  1. John Warden, parliamentary correspondent
  1. BMJ

    A new code of practice for employing locum doctors in British hospitals is intended to reduce the risk of incompetent or even bogus doctors being appointed.

    The health minister, Alan Milburn, said: “The existing rules governing locum doctors are inadequate. In future all locum doctors will be screened to weed out those who are a danger to patients.”

    The new guidelines are based on the report of a working group that looked into the monitoring of locums and reported the ease with which some unsatisfactory doctors were able to move between locum posts (BMJ 1995;310:150). Recent incidents include a serious sexual assault on a child patient by a locum surgeon.

    The code of practice says that hospital trusts should reduce the use of locums by better planning of vacancies. Checking and assessment of locums should be more vigorous, with locum doctors having to undergo health assessments and provide a statement of any criminal convictions.

    The working party had recommended a central blacklist of doctors who are found to be unsatisfactory and a national scheme of logbooks for locum doctors. These recommendations are omitted from the new code, although a key requirement is that all employers assess the professional competence of locum doctors for the benefit of subsequent employers. Employers are urged to report serious shortcomings in a doctor's performance to the General Medical Council.

    Some checks on locums may be delegated to a locum agency. The NHS Supplies Agency is developing a national contract for the supply of locums in order to establish a pool of good quality, reliable locums.


    • The Code of Practice in the Appointment and Employment of HCHS Locum Doctors is available from the NHS Executive (tel: 0541 555455).

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