Chris Netherton

Chris Netherton

Managing Director, Microtest

As the demands placed on the NHS continue to grow, technology has a vital role to play in supporting change management and facilitating new ways of working.

Over the last 20 years, the development of clinical software systems to support GP practices has enabled staff to work smarter rather than harder, achieve more in their working day, and deliver higher standards of patient care.

In the future, these kinds of technologies will go beyond the performance of day to day tasks within the practice and will enable crucial innovations to take place in the way that the NHS workforce can be organised and deployed. They will also enable the creation of powerful communities and networks that will help to support the ongoing work of the practice and help to drive improvements in the way that practices are staffed.

One such area of change management is in the use of locums within GP practices. Locum GPs have become a crucial resource for the NHS, helping practices to cover staff shortages due to recruitment gaps, fill in for staff who are away on holiday, and deal with short term absences due to illness. Today, many GPs are choosing to carry on working as locums rather than seeking a permanent post within a practice. In a survey conducted by the BMA, 72% of locums stated that their reason for doing this was that it gave them greater flexibility and a better work-life balance.

This is a significant change in the way that the workforce operates and so the challenge then becomes: what can we do to manage this new way of working as effectively as possible?

At Microtest, our response to this need has been the launch of a completely new product: Locum Wizard. This is an information system that enables GP practices to manage their locum resource much more effectively. It is a unique web-based tool that is designed to ‘match make’ GP practices and GP locums. Practices can easily build up their own bespoke network of locums that are geared to their particular requirements, streamlining the whole process and saving valuable time and resource. For locums, it offers an efficient way of identifying contracts that meet with their personal needs and experience. A win-win.

An early adopter of Locum Wizard is Peninsula Medical Chambers set up by Kernow Health CIC. This is a co-operative of locum GPs in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly which provides a comprehensive range of support services for the profession. They believe that Locum Wizard will help them create a new culture in which working as a locum is a viable and high quality career path. Dr Chris Ireland from Kernow Health CIC says:

“This represents a step change in the efficiency with which GP practices can find the quality locum staff they need. Locum Wizard is a slick, clear and functional tool, which is providing us with the backbone we need in order to bring about the cultural change we want to make happen. It will create efficiencies and help us build a powerful locum community.”

What is really exciting about the feedback we have received so far on Locum Wizard is that it can help to trigger a real culture change within the practice. It encourages practices to manage their locum resource in proactive ways that enable them to work more effectively and flexibly. It also encourages new thinking about how they can build up their own support community of medical professionals which is designed around their specific needs. All of this helps to transform the task of sourcing locums into something that can add real value to the practice.

As the NHS continues to evolve and adapt, the team here at Microtest are rising to the challenge and creating the new software tools that will help them to manage change, improve the working culture within GP practices, and continually improve patient care.

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