When the going gets tough

13th January 2017 by Rachel Birch

When the going gets tough

Managing your own wellbeing can be difficult as a locum, as prioritising your own health and safety over the needs of a practice could sour your relationship with that practice. However, it is important to ensure that you are practising in a way that is compatible with your own personal safety and wellbeing, and that of your patients. Dr Rachel Birch, GP and medicolegal adviser at Medical Protection, outlines three potential dilemmas that locum GPs could face.

What to do if you are unwell?

You have been unwell since the weekend with a chest infection. You are on antibiotics but they are slow to work and you are still feeling very tired and you don’t feel well enough to work. You are due to be duty doctor the following day at a single-handed practice where the partner is away on leave. The practice manager has telephoned you every day for the last three days to ask if you will be well enough, and you have consistently advised her it is unlikely. However, she tells you she can’t find an alternative locum.

What should you do?

If you feel that you are too unwell to go to work then you should trust your convictions and not do so. If you do go to work, you could be posing a risk to patient safety through your ill health. Although it is inconvenient for the practice to have to find a locum at short notice, patient safety is paramount, as well as your own health needs.
The GMC states that if a doctor’s judgment or performance could be affected by illness, they should seek advice from and follow the advice of a qualified colleague. They expect GPs to be registered with their own GP and not rely on their own assessment of their health.

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