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Vomiting and diarrhoea is horrid in my personal opinion. Give me a cold any day after a child’s party but not a tummy bug! Over the weekend I attended a 1st birthday party with my daughter and we both became unwell. I felt exhausted, physically drained and all I wanted to do was rest. On top of this, hanging over me, was the fear of possibly having to contact my surgeries (where I had sessions booked) to tell them that I may not be able to come in and do the locum shift. The feeling of guilt, I can quite easily say, trumped all of my physical symptoms. I knew a surgery would only book a locum doctor because they were short staffed themselves, so how could I ring in sick and add to their woes?
Fortunately, I knew the practice well and only had a couple of sessions booked towards the end of the week, giving me plenty of time to rest up and give them notice. However, if I had not known the practice I would have felt worse. The thought of being unpaid had not even crossed my mind at this point. I dreaded the fact that I could be thought of as unprofessional.
Freelancing is great for me as it provides me with the flexibility I need for a work-life balance but I suppose this illness highlighted one of the issues we may face as a freelance GP. It is an issue I have not needed to think about before. I am a Locum, am I allowed to call in sick? God forbid, maybe next time I have something more serious and can’t work for a long period of time. Should I think about getting myself income protection? Do I have enough savings to cover me for this period? If I don’t work I lose out, no work, no money. It’s as simple as that.
This incident stressed that as a Freelance GP, it is absolutely vital to plan for rainy days. We do not have the luxury of knowing we have a set number of days paid for as annual leave or even study leave.
My advice to other Freelance GPs is to be organised. I suggest at the beginning of the year to think about when you would like to take a break or attend courses for CPD. This allows you to work accordingly beforehand to save up for the time off when you are not working. You may even choose to put money aside each month from your earnings rather than go down the income protection route. Everyone is different and it is important to seek financial advice in relation to these issues to look after yourself and your family.
Getting sick is not something we can control, we are human after all. I suppose this experience has taught me to be honest and give as much notice as possible when you are unwell and above all else - plan, plan and plan ahead.
As a locum, I was made to feel so guilty for being sick and missing 2 days of work. The practice reacted as if I was lying. It's odd, as if we don't work, we don't get paid, so why would we take a 'sickie'? As doctors we should be much more understanding of the fact that people get unwell! It's hard as a locum as nobody knows you that well and you do get the impression they think you may be less professional than others.
I completely agree with the importance of planning for a rainy day w.r.t. adequate emergency savings, income protection etc.
I'll never forget the surgery where I had to dash out between patients to throw up. We often have to suggest to our patients that they are currently too ill to work - perhaps should follow occasionally follow our own advice?
Maybe its one of the things that locums need to think about more when setting their rates, rates need to reflect time off work due to holidays, potential illness and also quiet periods of little or no work.
Good to raise the awareness re income protection. Cost of this (as with all professional fees) should be factored into fee-setting.
The thought of having to call in sick as a locum is worrying - luckily I have avoided this so far.
Thanks for raising this issue, has been on mind for some time. I had to cancel my locum work couple of time but I was lucky I knew the practice very well. Getting income protection is a good idea but it is not cheap. I think planning at beginning of year is the key for freelance GPs.
Presenteeism is more of a problem than absenteeism in the NHS .If you are ill, you under perform and are a risk to your patients.Your "tummy bug" might be life threatening if you pass it on to your immuno suppressed patient!
Infecting your colleagues won;t help the practice much either. GMC duties of a doctor is very clear on this and you make a declaration about it in your annual appraisal.
Dr Linda Miller
Hi Linda- it's an important point you've raised- the point is that I didn't go in and called in sick - I was hoping to show to my colleagues that it is ok to call in sick- but yes the other side of the coin is as you mentioned our duties as a doctor which I didn't mention above
i am a Locum doctor and feel we absolutely need to feel that we can call in sick when necessary. In fact in the last year or so I have had to take a couple of days off (bad flu). I have gone in with colds and am going in tomorrow with bilateral perforated ear drums...but I know where the line is. D&V is a 100% no no + 48 hours symptom free. Also if u feel so rubbish that u can't properly concentrate on patients then it is better that u take time off to get better. Also if you make a mistake due to being ill that could result in GMC action and a whole lot more time off work!! Look after number one first, then the patients.
As a locum (tenens) you assume the role of the doctor you are replacing. and if the employing GP wants to maintain that you are not employed, and indeed merely a locum, ie so that he/she is not responsible for your NI contributions, then you do indeed need to take responsibility for finding a replacement for yourself. Its the responsibility of the single handed GP. Its all in the standard locum contracts practices have.
That's the problem with small children
Instant D&V - to be expected! Sorting out that is the job of the employer - either the GP or an agency. The only responsibility of the victim is to notify and NOT give it to the patients!
Thank you for your blog Pooja. This is a crucial topic to discuss. I feel that of course we should call in sick if we feel are unable to work safely regardless of what work has been booked. One way to mention this before working with a pratice, is to include this in one's own terms and conditions when booking locum work. For instance, I state that in the case of having to cancel work at short notice, due to an emergency or personal illness, that I will try to find cover through my own network and will do the next session free of charge. This may help with the relationship between the locum and the practice, but also acknowledges that you recognise the burden cancelling at short notice can have on the practice and that you wish to attempt to inconvenience them less by seeing if you can arrange cover for them.
Dr Faraz Mughal
I am just. An ordinary citizen who would like to give my support to Junior doctors at this time I am being treated at moment for osphigal cancer been in and out of hospital since. Last