Having a “family doctor” who can be called upon at any time of the day or night is a thing of the past. Despite successive governments claiming that they want to change the NHS into a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week service, we’re still some way from that. If someone falls ill out of regular surgery hours, but not ill enough to make a trip to A&E, you’ll probably end up seeing an out of hours GP at a drop in centre. There are different ways of managing out of hours healthcare depending on where you live in the country. Wherever you are, the one thing which remains constant is that the service is rarely out of the news, and not always for positive reasons.
Who Staffs Out of Hours Surgeries?
Although an out of hours service means you’ll get to see a doctor, it’s unlikely that it will be a doctor you’ve ever seen before and will know your medical history. All sorts of doctors sign up to do shifts in an out of hours centre. Some are working part-time as GPs elsewhere and go a few extra shifts a month to boost their bank balance. Others use the out of hours service as their main source of income. Others might even fly in from overseas to cover out of hours services at peak times, and are paid very well for doing so. NHS trusts around the country have the job of verifying the people who come forward to apply for out of hours job, and of making sure they’re up to it. This is easy when the doctor is working elsewhere in your NHS Trust or a neighbouring one, less easy when the doctor has come from overseas. One of the main pieces of paperwork any doctor needs is an enhanced DBS check.
Enhanced Checks for Doctors
Doctors, along with other healthcare professionals, need an enhanced disclosure check. These are the most detailed levels of checks, and will look at both the current criminal record, and more distant information too. For doctors, who will usually be alone with vulnerable patients and potentially performing intimate examinations, there is a further level of checking. Any doctor who has been convicted of serious crimes will have their name listed on a Barred list, which is a legal ban from working in the profession again. They will also be “struck off” the medical register. Any decent NHS Trust will be looking at current registration for any new GP they employ.
At present, doctors from across the EU are free to come and work in the UK as long as they have the right qualifications and a good level of written and spoken English. Foreign doctors will also need a criminal records check but there’s no point in completing a UK check for someone who has never lived here. Therefore, the NHS will ask the doctor to provide a similar certificate from their home country. This should ensure that patients are being seen by safe, competent GPs.