Last reviewed 17 September 2013

NHS Employers has published an updated version of its guidance on the appointment and employment of NHS locum doctors.

Guidance on the Appointment and Employment of Locum Doctors was first published in June 2012 and summarises the current standards governing the appointment and use of locum doctors. The main areas that have been updated for the 2013 publication include changes to NHS employment checks standards, tax assurance of off-payroll workers, language competency and revalidation.

NHS employers should refer to the guidance, as they have ultimate responsibility for ensuring that a locum doctor is a suitable appointee for the role, whether or not the locum doctor has been supplied by an agency or limited company. Employers may also decide to only use locum agencies that subscribe to the guidance.

The document explains that GP practices and other organisations employing locum doctors are responsible for ensuring that appointees have the right level of communication skills for the role. It says that a doctor’s language skills may be self-evident during the course of an interview for a job but, where there are doubts about communication ability, tests can be used for further assessment, although these should not be undertaken on a systematic basis.

It also suggests that it is good practice for organisations using locums to know the identity of the locum’s responsible officer before taking them on, which should be established during employment checks.

An employer’s checklist of responsibilities as well as guidelines on hours and pay are provided too.

Other changes, which form part of the GP contract imposition and are being implemented this month, have meant that GP practices in England and Wales have become responsible for paying locum superannuation rather than the clinical commissioning groups in England, and Welsh health boards.

British Medical Association (BMA) chair Dr Mark Porter has already reported evidence of part-time locum GPs who have seen their fees cut by GMS practice employers to take account of the 14% employer pension contributions now payable, and other GPs saying they will only be able to employ locum GPs who are no longer making pension contributions. Dr Porter has written to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt calling for him to change his decision on this issue.