There have been a number of reports indicating that NHS hospitals across the country are struggling to cope with the demand, extending the amount of time patients spend waiting to be seen and putting extra strain on staff. However, locum doctors can be an effective and positive way to reduce the impact of shortages, and ensure that other healthcare professionals are able to work to their full ability.
This can be seen most apparently in the way drawing in locums can enable full-time staff and other temporary workers to take advantage of regular breaks, allowing them to refuel and rest. This allows them to return to their patients full of energy and able to tackle whatever problems or issues may arise.
However, there are a number of other ways that locum doctors can be a positive step when it comes to addressing departments that may find themselves understaffed or without the skills they need at any time.
Addresses fluctuation in staffing
Like practically every industry in the world, the healthcare sector suffers from absences. Whether this is exceptionally last minute through sickness or personal factors or is a little more in advance because of training dates or conferences, this can mean that departments are left without the staff they need.
Even when staff are at full capacity, periods of higher demand, such as in the winter, can mean that doctors are overworked and don't have the opportunity to take their breaks. This can significantly compromise patient care, extending waiting times and reducing the level of expertise they can quickly access.
Having trustworthy and reliable locums to call on in these instances can make the difference. These doctors are highly skilled and equipped to deal with patients, taking the strain away from permanent staff and allowing patients to receive a high standard of care. This can reflect positively on the entire workforce and wider hospital.
Cost effective when properly enforced
Although there are misconceptions that locums are an expensive and last-minute solution to 'plug the holes', when properly implemented they can be an effective and cost-effective way of ensuring patient care remains high. If the proper processes are completed, there is no reason why locums should be any more costly than their long-term peers, and can offer a whole host of benefits for the hospital concerned.
There are also advantages to taking on locum doctors that a hospital wouldn't get from hiring a brand new full-time recruit. Using locums with an agency ensures that you are taking on registered and fully skilled professionals, who are used to working in unfamiliar environments. This can prove to be more effective than taking on a brand new recruit, who may not have the same level of communication skills or experience in adapting to novel surroundings.
Skills up a workforce
Using locums, especially at a consultant level, can be a quick and easy way to address specific needs a hospital has. Whether you need a critical care nurse in A&E or a consultant for your cardiology department, locums allow trusts to handpick the skills they are looking for in their doctors.
This not only addresses the immediate need for skills in regards to treating patients, but can also enable other staff to benefit from the experience and expertise of senior consultants across a broad range of fields. This can be the ideal solution for smaller hospitals or clinics, which may not have large numbers of staff to initially choose from on a day-to-day basis.
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