There is no doubt that GPs feel they are being micromanaged: the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF), centralised bureaucracy, targets, box ticking and payment by item not appointment. But should your locum insurance be prescriptive about what you can or cannot do with the payments you get if you claim?
There are some areas of the Practice that you want to keep control of, and how to handle your money in the event of staff absence is likely to be high on your agenda.
First Practice Management recently reported* that staff absence is a Practice Manager’s top HR issue, causing a strain on admin as well as welfare. Don’t compound it with arguments over what to do with claim payments.
Internal vs external staff cover
If someone goes off ill – whether it’s a doctor or an important member of staff – you need to cover their work. But buying in a locum isn’t the only solution. For example, you might want to fund other GPs or nurses in the practice to cover for the absent person. The choice should be yours.
When you’re doing your initial research this might not feature as a deal-breaker. You’re probably more likely to be focused on the cost of the insurance, whether your doctors’ pre-existing conditions will be covered, and how many other hoops you may have to jump through before the policy is put in place.
Jumping through hoops at this stage of the process is bad enough – but at least it won’t affect your practice’s income. Imagine how upsetting it would be if, having bought the insurance and breathed a sigh of relief that it was finally in place, you then found you couldn’t claim in full because:
- you couldn’t get a locum to cover some of the sessions
- you didn’t want to get a locum because colleagues had enough spare capacity to provide cover
- you chose not to get a locum due to the specialised nature of the work carried out by the absent doctor.
In all of these cases, when sessions have to be covered in-house, there is a cost: those who take on the absent doctor’s sessions need to be paid. These costs land in the Practice’s lap and, importantly, they are costs you would reasonably expect your locum insurance to cover.
Who’s in control?
If you’ve bought locum insurance that pays out only if you bring in external locums, choice is taken out of your hands. With any form of insurance, its value becomes apparent only at the claims stage.
It’s therefore important that, at the claims stage, it does what you and your colleagues thought it would do. This isn’t the time to find out that the insurance you bought will apply unexpected and, you might think, unreasonable caveats as far as payment is concerned.
Is it right that your locum insurer should be telling you what’s right for your Practice?
If you buy a policy which pays an agreed sum when a GP or staff member can’t work – and doesn’t have this restriction – you’re back in control. You choose who you will pay to cover an absent doctor’s sessions. For once you’re not at someone else’s beck and call.
This article was written by Lynda Cox, Director of Practice Cover, specialists in locum insurance.
The opinions presented in this blog are solely those of the author on behalf of Practice Cover Limited and they do not constitute individual advice. Practice Cover is a trading name of Practice Cover Limited and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. * First Practice Management