Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Locum Staff

How I tried to hire a locum

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 29 June 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1412

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Chris Isles, professor
  1. 1Medical Unit, Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, Dumfries DG1 2AP
  1. chris.isles{at}

    Chris Isles’ frustrating hunt to fill his medical staff rota using locums led him to some critical conclusions about the poorly regulated locum sector in the UK

    The medical unit in my district hospital has around 150 beds. There is funding for 21 middle grade and specialty doctor posts, although at the time of writing only two thirds have been filled. Monthly adverts for locum training posts in the medical press got responses from several apparently suitable doctors working overseas, but it would be at least three months before their paperwork would be complete to allow them to come to the UK and they were therefore of no use for our current crisis.

    There was a European doctor with no previous NHS experience who had been working on a cruise ship for the past year; a gastroenterologist whose curriculum vitae (CV) stated that his knowledge of psychosomatics allowed him to treat disorders such as globus hystericus but gave no clear idea that he would know what to do if confronted by a patient with life threatening haematemesis. There were many other CVs like these. Human resources tried their hardest to procure suitable locums from staffing agencies, but with no success. It was at this point that I decided to become involved in the procurement process. All the case histories that follow relate to a three month period and are true.

    Case histories

    Dr A—Around Christmas 2009 an agency emailed offering “a fantastic doctor with very good UK experience. He is very flexible and can work days and nights.” I booked him immediately. Four days later came another email from the agency: “He is not wanting to work in Scotland (too cold!!)—only wants to work in or around London.” You win some, and you lose some.

    Dr B—The email from …

    View Full Text

    Log in

    Log in through your institution


    * For online subscription