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New standards for locum surgeons to provide NHS Trusts with clarity

18 May 2011

Locum surgeons who perform a crucial role covering short-term leaves of absence and illness in hospitals must not be misused by the NHS to cover long-term staffing problems; this is the reminder from the Royal College of Surgeons [RCS] today as they publish new guidelines Locum surgeons: Principles and Standards.

Currently, some locum consultant positions are being filled with those who are not eligible to be called a Consultant. The RCS believes that all patients should be able to expect the same standard of care whether they are treated by a locum surgeon or a permanent member of staff; only surgeons who are on the specialist register, or those within six months of completing recognised surgical training, are suitably qualified for locum Consultant positions.

The RCS guidance also recommends that Trusts do not extend locum surgeon appointments for longer than a year, as long-term cover is best provided by fully qualified surgeons working in permanent posts that provide stability to a department.

Building on existing guidance, Locum surgeons: Principles and Standards, outlines what the RCS expects of both the Trusts who employ the services of locums - either directly or through agencies - and of the locum surgeons themselves. Employers have a responsibility to check the qualifications and skills of locum surgeons and ensure that individuals are aware of local policies and procedures.

Chris Milford, author of the standards document and RCS Council member said: “Locum surgeons perform an essential role within the NHS, covering periods of expected and unexpected leave or high demand to ensure that patients are provided with surgical care. This guidance reminds Trusts, locum agencies and, locum surgeons that they should be complying with standards the RCS expects of all surgeons, including participating in outcome reporting and preparations for revalidation.”

John Black, President of the Royal College of Surgeons said: “Locum surgeons are supposed to be employed to cover short-term absences in hospitals, but with the added pressure on surgical rotas caused by the European Working Time Regulations, the NHS is being forced to seek out alternative solutions in order to plug long-term gaps. The result is that some NHS hospitals are being staffed by inappropriately qualified or inexperienced, locum surgeons.”

Locum surgeons: Principles and Standards is available here.

-ENDS-

Notes to Editors

  1. The Royal College of Surgeons of England is committed to enabling surgeons to achieve and maintain the highest standards of surgical practice and patient care. Registered charity number: 212808. For more information please visit www.rcseng.ac.uk.
  2. If you have any queries please contact:
    Matthew Worrall             – Email: mworrall@rcseng.ac.uk; T: 020 7869 6047
    Elaine Towell                 – Email: etowell@rcseng.ac.uk; T: 020 7869 6045
    Heather Casey               -Emaill hcasey@rcseng.ac.uk; T: 020 7869 6042
    Out-of-hours: 07966 486 832