Man in a dentists looking over documents.

What should locum contracts include for Doctors & Dentists?

In the UK, locum contracts are pretty commonplace in NHS hospitals, practices and clinics, as well as those run privately. They serve as a flexible employment option for both employers and employees. This makes them especially useful for doctors and dentists, whose professions frequently experience periods of high demand. This post details everything that should be included in a locum contract for doctors and dentists, along with legal advice for employers and employees.


What is a locum contract?

A locum contract is an employment contract designed to fill temporary vacancies and increase staff during peak times in the healthcare industry. This is appropriate, as the word ‘Locum’ is a shortened Latin term that translates to ‘place holder’. Locum contracts are typically undertaken on a short-term basis, although this isn’t always the case.

Any doctor or dentist working in the UK on a locum contract is required to have the exact same training and level of qualification as is expected in their role. A recent national survey of NHS trusts in England found that a majority use locums at various points throughout the year. The research concluded that were many benefits to hospitals and clinics of using locum doctors. As such, employers in this sector need to know what to include when they’re offering locum contracts.

Contents of a locum contract for doctors and dentists

This should relate to the individual (name, contact details, hiring organisation), when employment will start and end, and the location where work is to take place.

Each locum will have its own fee structure based on an hourly rate of pay. This section should also contain information regarding on-call hours or the possibility of overtime work. Furthermore, the contract should outline the payment schedule and any payment-related conditions. A reimbursement policy should be in place for any costs the individual sustains during the contract period, such as accommodation or travel.

It’s recommended that both employers and employees make comparisons to other locum arrangements when outlining their compensation and expenses clauses. This helps ensure the pay is desirable for the range of responsibilities required.

If the contract can be renewed or extended, along with the conditions that permit this. The terms of work must also outline the potential circumstances under which both parties can terminate the contract, as well as the notice period.

The locum contract should also contain provisions for patient confidentiality and data handling best practice, as outlined in law. The required professional indemnity insurance coverage will also be listed here. This is mainly for clarity, but it does serve to remind doctors and dentists of the laws governing their working practices.

The specific duties of the individuals and the hours these must be carried out. Different areas of work should be differentiated, for instance, consultations may have a certain number of hours allocated which could be more or less than conducting examinations. This will vary based on the role that needs filling.

Official regulations and professional standards for working as a doctor or dentist in the UK. These guidelines will likely be taken from the relevant bodies that govern these professions.

A locum employment contract can feature a number of additional provisions for employees. This can include:

  • Any unique policies and procedures of the employer.
  • Annual leave and sick pay entitlements.
  • Dispute resolution process.
  • Parking.
  • Any subsidies or benefits.

What employers need to know about locum contracts

As an employer, your primary concern should be securing a high quality of service through the use of locums. This means care should be taken when drawing up locum contracts. Even if you have a pre-existing locum contract that you’ve used in the past, new conditions may be needed to reflect the business/industry context in which the individual is being hired.

Employers must also consider the working environment in relation to the medical skills and experience held by the locum. While all locum doctors and dentists will have obtained the relevant accreditation certificates from the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board (PMETB), they may need specialist knowledge to be able to jump into a temporary role. A locum will also be bound to the same professional practicing costs as other GPs. This includes membership of the General Medical Council, British Medical Association, Royal College of General Practitioners, and National Association of Session GPs, as well as professional indemnity.

Key questions about locum contracts

No, although they can be. This will be outlined in the payment terms of the contract or sometimes the terms of work.

As outlined by the Department of Health, the maximum length of a locum contract agreement is 12 months. This is because it is only possible to extend the contract up to 6 months.

Medical service providers are solely responsible for the negligent behaviour of locums practicing for them. However, this only applies to the extent of the services that are expected of them under the contract. Additional voluntary duties undertaken by a locum that are deemed to be negligent will be their own responsibility.

Medical employment law for employers

As discussed, locums are a valuable asset for employers in the healthcare sector. If you think you might need short term staff to support the other doctors and dentists in your facility, it’s best to get professional legal advice before you draw up a contract. Equally, as a new locum doctor or dentist, a specialist contract law lawyers can make sure you’re getting a good deal. Look no further than Employment Law Services (ELS) Ltd for fixed fee legal support.