You’ve completed all of the paperwork and registered with Key Medical Services, chosen the assignments that suit you, and are ready and raring to go. However, navigating your first few days as a locum can be confusing as they can differ quite significantly from a permanent position. Your first assignment could, understandably, be quite a nerve-wracking experience, and we know you’ll want to hit the ground running as you take this important step in your career.

As your partner in achieving your short and long-term career goals, Key Medical Services has created a guide to help you tackle the ins and outs of your first day as a locum GP. After reading this guide you will have a solid understanding of what to expect including:

  • How to prepare for your assignment
  • How to set up and introduce yourself
  • How to perform your duties on the day
  • The paperwork you’ll need to complete
  • How to cope with the unexpected

How to prepare

Like many things in life, when it comes to your first day on the job as a locum GP, preparation is key.

Agreeing to the assignment:

One thing to be aware of is the importance of your assignment confirmation and the ‘Agreed Terms of Work’.

The assignment confirmation is an email you will receive from your Key Medical Services GP consultant outlining the date, time, location, and whom to report to on the day of your assignment. Depending on the type of rota management, you might have the confirmation well in advance, or if it is a last-minute arrangement, for example covering sick leave, you may receive it the day or night before the assignment.

The Agreed Terms of Work or Engagement refers to the contract between you and the trust or independent practice that outlines what will be required and expected of you from your assignment with them.


Spending some time preparing the night before your first day will, in turn, save you time on the day and help calm any nerves or anxiety you may be feeling. Some things to prepare:

Pack your bag

As you’ll be working in a facility you’re unfamiliar with, it’s a good idea to bring your own equipment as it will save you time looking for it. Some of the basics you should include in your bag are:

  • Your confirmation letter (the email we sent to you confirming your assignment)
  • Your Key Medical Staffing timesheet which you can download here
  • Simple stationery like pens and notepads
  • Your KMS ID badge (check the local Infection control policy on whether to wear this or display it on your desk)

Decide what you’re going to wear and have these laid out

Many practices will expect you to dress smartly, choosing your outfit the night before will save you precious time in the morning and ensure you’re on time for your assignment.

Google the directions

Working out what route you’re going to take the night before will save you a lot of time and hassle in the morning. It will be easier to ensure you arrive on time if you drive rather than use public transport, but you should also aim to give yourself 15-20 minutes extra to accommodate any additional traffic you may come across during rush hour.

Ideally you should aim to arrive 20-30 minutes early to accommodate some time for orientation and introductions.

Check the parking situation

You can check online or contact your Key Medical Services GP consultant to just check where you’re expected to park. You may need to be added to a system, given a temporary parking permit or sticker to display.

Pack a lunch

As you don’t really know what to expect from your assignment, you may not have time to track down the canteen or step out for a bite. Packing a balanced lunch and snack will help you face a full day prepared.

On the day: how to set up

You’re all prepped and ready to go, you’ve made your way to the facility and now it’s time to get to know your environment with some introductions and orientation.

Introduce yourself

Make your way to reception and introduce yourself; somebody should be able to show you around, introduce you to some of the GPs, show you the stationery cupboard, lockers, canteen, etc.

Whilst you’re being shown around and have located where you’ll be working, is a good time to ask some initial questions about how the facility handles its processes. Some good questions to ask include:

What is the extension number for reception?

Where is the panic button?

How do I call patients in?

What is the process for requesting blood tests and where are these done (on site or local hospital)?

How do I order X-rays and Ultrasounds?

How do you make a referral for physiotherapy and counselling, or to a consultant etc.?

Where are the important forms kept (I.e. MED3, MATB1 and maternity exemption forms)?

Some facilities will provide you with a locum induction pack which should explain how they operate and facilitate their locum clinicians, including:

Local ID

Some facilities may require you to have your own local ID in order to access certain areas or systems. Check at reception if this is the case.

Systems refreshers

Before your first patient, take some time to refresh yourself with the system in use which may vary from facility to facility. Some trusts or independent practices require you to have your own account registered on the system before you can use it, so make sure you have your login information to hand throughout the day.

Make sure the room is stocked

Even with your well-stocked doctor’s bag it is important to make sure your appointment room is fully stocked with prescription pads, tongue depressors, blood pressure measuring equipment, etc.

Managing your assignment and your duties

Details of what is expected of you from your assignment should usually be shared with you prior to the assignment or shift or agreed upon in the Terms of Work. It is important to be clear about what you can and cannot do in the timeframe given as not all GPs work the same way.

Some best practices to bear in mind:

Time keeping

Try to keep patient consultations within the allotted time and have five minutes between them for any follow-up paperwork, tidying up or administrative tasks.

Ask questions if you are unsure

If something arises from a consultation that you don’t know the answer to, you’ll need to be confident enough to ask for help. Reception or other GPs will probably be able to assist thus improving the level of care you administer. This could be particularly important if a patient is following up on a previous consultation and requires information from you.

Record keeping

Record keeping is a very important aspect of locum work. If you are only booked in for one or a few assignments at the same facility, another GP may have to pick up where you left off with a patient. This means you will need to make detailed patient notes on the system, clearly outlining your reasons for your management of the patient.

This is incredibly important if there are any complaints from the patient or the facility, in which case all records made during the appointment or assignment will be used as a means of resolving the complaint.

Be organised

This is particularly important when it comes to diary management and patient care. Making sure you know where you’re supposed to be and when is essential. Getting into the habit of having a diary will help you track your assignments and sessions as your career as a locum takes off.

Being organised during your consultations will also help you stay on top of your timekeeping.

Be patient

Being calm and patient during a locum assignment can be very difficult, particularly when you’re dealing with a new environment and technology or systems. Go through your consultations steadily so you can listen to the patient, carry out appropriate actions and make clear notes in the system.


Setting yourself up as a locum GP will probably have made you no stranger to paperwork. You’ll need the following documents prior to the confirmation of your assignment.

You will also need to keep a track of your paperwork during your assignment, this includes authorised claims forms (which you should be able to get by speaking to reception) so that the hospital can cover your travel expenses, and a timesheet for payment of services which you should bring with you to the assignment.

Submitting timesheets:

Submitting a timesheet authenticates your right to be paid for the shifts and assignments you have completed. As your partner in general practice, we can offer you full diary management as well as admin support, ensuring you receive payment in a quick and timely manner for your hard work.

Download timesheet here

When should I submit a timesheet?

You should complete one timesheet per week worked and submit on the last working day of the week (Monday to Sunday).

Please be aware that timesheets received after 23:59 will be rolled into the following working day’s payroll.

Who do I send my timesheet to?

Please send your timesheets to:


Or you can post your timesheet to: Key Medical Services Ltd., Suite B, Second Floor, 400 Capability Green, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU1 3LU

A couple of points to remember:

  • You’ll need Adobe Reader to be able to view the timesheet document
  • Please only use black ink
  • Complete in full, ensuring your name, site name, date, start and finish times, breaks and total units worked are fully completed
  • Remember to obtain authorised signatures for all the shifts you’ve worked, (unauthorised signatures can delay payments as further confirmations of your shift may be required prior to payment)
  • When emailing your timesheet, please send your timesheet directly to the timesheet processing team on the above email addresses to ensure prompt payments
  • Please copy your GP consultant into the same email, but be aware that sending your timesheet only to your GP consultant will delay payment

If you have any problems or questions about timesheets or payments, please speak to your GP consultant.

Download timesheet here

How to handle the unexpected

It’s a fact of life – particularly in primary care – that things sometimes don’t go according to plan. Being adaptable and taking on feedback will go a long way in helping you cope with the unexpected.

What happens if additional patients are booked on?

Additional patients can be booked on to the assignment easily and it’s important to draw a firm line between what you will and will not do, and what you can and cannot do. Often the administrative staff filling in the rota may not know your exact experience and specialisms and may offer additional patients that you may not be qualified to see. Make sure you are clear about this or contact your GP consultant to discuss the matter.

If a problem occurs on your assignment

As you know, primary care is a fast-paced environment and issues can often occur. If you experience a problem whilst on your assignment, contact your Key Medical Services GP consultant and report the issue to the complaints’ manager, or corresponding title, at the facility as soon as you can to initiate the complaints handling process.

Each trust or independent practice’s complaints handling process will be different, but you should ask to be informed of the proceedings at every stage.

If a patient makes a complaint

Locum work can be incredibly rewarding and offer attractive remuneration; however, it does expose you to an increased likelihood of patient complaints because locums:

  • Are less well-known than permanent clinicians
  • May be given inadequate induction
  • Are less familiar with internal systems or technology
  • May experience difficulty accessing patients’ notes or records
  • Don’t receive regular feedback
  • Don’t always receive much support or guidance from permanent staff at the facility

In your Terms of Agreement contract there should be an outline of the complaints procedure and how this will be communicated with you. Accurate record keeping of all patient interaction is key here to establishing evidence of what transpired and how this should proceed.

If you experience any of these issues, do not hesitate to contact your GP consultant who can help you through the complaints or escalation process. Our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Caroline Rogers is also here to help you navigate and learn from any complaints should they arise.

Getting future assignments:

We can fill and manage your diary quickly and simply. We are best placed to help you find optimal positions in independent practices where exceptional clinical judgement is admired and encouraged. To discuss further assignments, speak to your GP consultant.

Key Medical Services is here to support you through your career as a locum and personal development with mentoring, feedback, and on-going compliance support so you can focus on the job at hand. We welcome feedback and suggestions to improve our own service; if you would like to share anything with use please contact us on the information below.


Key Medical Services Ltd., Suite B, Second Floor, 400 Capability Green, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU1 3LU

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