Locum doctor working and quality and safety: A qualitative study in English primary and secondary care

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Abstract

Background The use of temporary doctors, known as locums, has been common practice for managing staffing shortages and maintaining service delivery internationally. However, there has been little empirical research on the implications of locum working for quality and safety. This study aimed to investigate the implications of locum working for quality and safety. Methods Qualitative semi-structured interviews and focus groups were conducted with 130 participants, including locums, patients, permanently employed doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals with governance and recruitment responsibilities for locums across primary and secondary healthcare organisations in the English NHS. Data were collected between March 2021 and April 2022. Data were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis and abductive analysis. Results Participants described the implications of locum working for quality and safety across five themes: (1) familiarity' with an organisation and its patients and staff was essential to delivering safe care; (2) balance and stability' of services reliant on locums were seen as at risk of destabilisation and lacking leadership for quality improvement; (3) discrimination and exclusion' experienced by locums had negative implications for morale, retention and patient outcomes; (4) defensive practice' by locums as a result of perceptions of increased vulnerability and decreased support; (5) clinical governance arrangements, which often did not adequately cover locum doctors. Conclusion Locum working and how locums were integrated into organisations posed some significant challenges and opportunities for patient safety and quality of care. Organisations should take stock of how they work with the locum workforce to improve not only quality and safety but also locum experience and retention.

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APA

Ferguson, J., Stringer, G., Walshe, K., Allen, T., Grigoroglou, C., Ashcroft, D. M., & Kontopantelis, E. (2024). Locum doctor working and quality and safety: A qualitative study in English primary and secondary care. BMJ Quality and Safety, 33(6), 354–362. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjqs-2023-016699

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