Locum tenens consultant doctors in a rural general hospital - an essential part of the medical workforce or an expensive stopgap?
Citation: Sim AJW. Locum tenens consultant doctors in a rural general hospital - an essential part of the medical workforce or an expensive stopgap? Rural and Remote Health 11: 1594. (Online) 2011. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au
Introduction: Maintaining hospital consultant staffing levels often requires the employment of locum tenens to meet service needs. This is particularly so in hospitals where core clinical services are run by a small number of permanently appointed consultants. The problems associated with locum employment are underestimated and little attention has been directed towards addressing the issue in the rural general hospitals of Scotland. This study looked at the permanent and short- and long-term locum consultant usage over an 8 year period in one Scottish rural general hospital, the Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway.Key words: locum, locum consultant, locum tenens, medical workforce, rural general hospital, rural hospital.
Methods: Data were extracted from the Human Resources Department of NHS Western Isles’ list of locum consultants for most weeks from the beginning of January 2002 to the end of December 2009.
Results: The Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway has an establishment of 17 permanent consultants. During the 8 year study period 239 different consultants were employed, 20 held substantive permanent positions, 31 were long-term locums (employed >3 months) and 188 were short-term locums. The short-term locums worked for 535 different locum episodes. The pattern of usage varied according to service configuration.
Conclusion: Study data revealed the alarming scope of the locum tenens issue, which will increase unless action is taken. For sustainable medical services to continue in the rural general hospitals of Scotland, staffing models must minimise the need to employ locum consultants.
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