If you have no choice but to cancel a locum, always give as much warning as you possibly can. More than one month's notice would be deemed fair and acceptable, but any less than this and the locum would expect compensation - usually on a sliding scale - if they couldn't find alternative work.
Consider the implications
- The locum may not be able to find alternative work and therefore suffer a crippling reduction in household income.
- It's highly likely that the same locum may never accept work in your practice again.
- There are over 100 locum groups around the UK, where locums meet up on a monthly basis to discuss clinical and work issues; it doesn't take long for the word to get around that you don't honour bookings, and therefore put your practice at risk of getting clinical cover when it's needed.
- In booking a locum GP you have made an 'unconditional' contract of employment, and so breaking that contract could entitle the locum GP to financial compensation should they ultimately end up out-of-pocket if they can't find other work in time.
- Should this be the case, the simplest, cleanest and fairest thing to do is to compensate the locum for all loss of earnings. Otherwise be prepared for the locum to seek financial compensation.
Although this goes without saying, NASGP has heard of instances where the GP has been told by text message! Notifying the GP concerned should always be done by the practice's senior manager or a partner, ideally in person or at the very least by a timely phone call, followed up by a written confirmation.
We've decided the locum is unsuitable and so we want to cancel them
If you have a concern that a GP is unsuitable to practise in your practice for any clinical reason, you have a duty (GMC: Raising and acting on concerns about patient safety (2012) Part 2: Acting on a concern) to raise this with the GP concerned and/or take further steps as appropriate. Although 'simply' cancelling the locum, or making the decision to never book them again, might be the easiest thing to do for you, it robs the locum GP of any chance to learn, reflect and improve the care that gave and simply passes those shortcomings - perceived or real - on to another practice.