More than ever in entrepreneurial circles, it seems, there’s a belief that anything is possible. Business is, after all, a world bursting with self-fulfilling prophecy. Proclaim it; live it. As one Derek Trotter would have said: “He who dares, wins“. But is setting up and running a healthcare locum agency really that simple? Is it true that any old smooth-talker with a computer and a telephone can make a success of such an agency? I mean, provided the locums are qualified and know what they’re doing, that’s fine… Isn’t it?…
Well, if you fancy giving it a go, then before you kick off your multimedia PR offensive and start cold-calling chemists with “today-only” sign-up deals, you’re going to need to ask yourself some questions. For example…
- Would you know who was right, and who was wrong, in a controlled drugs-related incident between a client and a locum?
- Would you know if a pharmacy was safe, or unsafe, for a pharmacist to open?
- Do you thoroughly understand all of the legal implications of healthcare work, the responsibilities healthcare professionals have to the public, and the responsibilities a healthcare agency has to all of its associated parties?
If you answered no to any of the above, then to say the least, your agency would not be a wise choice either for clients or locums in the relevant fields. Already, perhaps, you’re beginning to see why a locum agency run by healthcare professionals is going to be the agency of choice for the discerning client, and the discerning locum.
NO ORDINARY BUSINESS
Healthcare isn’t like any other type of business. It’s a business that MUST default to very high standards. But more than that, it must have the utmost integrity, it must care, and it must possess the required knowledge and experience to provide its service. Unlike so many other areas of commerce, with healthcare there can be no separation or disparity between the marketing and the reality. With healthcare, indeed, the reality is the marketing.
As the leading UK healthcare agency in its field, Team Locum has consistently promoted itself through the most powerful marketing system in existence: positive word of mouth. The agency has seen another year of unprecedented, spectacular growth here in 2016, as client demand continues to sharply rise, and a wealth of excellent pharmacists, optometrists and other healthcare professionals reap the benefits of the locum lifestyle.
But just why is that word of mouth so positive, and why is it specifically Team Locum that continues to move ahead in such a competitive, and in many ways increasingly difficult market?
Well, just for starters, the office is staffed wall-to-wall with highly dedicated personnel, honesty is the only policy, and cutting corners is a crime. The locums matter, the clients matter, and the opinions of both will prompt significant internal discussions on a regular basis. This is not a business on a PR mission to persuade outsiders that it cares. It’s a business that does care.
Caring, knowing, and acting with total integrity, has been a winning ethos for Team Locum, and the evidence of that has never been more dramatic. The origins of that ethos, however, lie not so much in the arena of business, as in the arena of healthcare. Team Locum’s winning ethos has been instilled and maintained by the two vastly experienced healthcare professionals who set up the company, and who still give the operation its crucial competitive edge.
LINDA AND TERRY YEARSLEY
Linda and Terry Yearsley inaugurated Team Locum in April 2001, and have remained at the helm on a full-time basis throughout the company’s history. Managing Director Linda drives the business forward from the office, alongside Sales and Operations Director Liam Byrne. Terry divides his role as a company Director between running some of the more financially-based aspects of Team Locum, and keeping a finger well and truly on the pulse of the business’s biggest field of locum supply: pharmacy. In fact, Terry could not place his finger any more firmly on the pulse of pharmacy – he’s an active locum pharmacist, gaining additional insight as a member of various Local Pharmaceutical Committees.
Both Linda and Terry had more than two decades’ experience in their respective fields of healthcare before starting Team Locum.
Linda has three main fields of expertise: nursing, education, and business. When asked to set her skills into order, she’ll cite nursing first, and that’s no surprise. Linda spent 20 years in the widest imaginable range of nursing situations, spanning acute hospital, community, and nursing & care homes. Her roles in acute settings included medicine, surgery, orthopaedic, oncology, intensive care, coronary care… It’s pretty much a case of ‘you name it’.
As regards Linda’s connection with healthcare business, she’s worked for the likes of Allied Healthcare, London and Provincial Nursing Services (LPNS) and HMS Recruitment, which was later merged into Initial Healthcare. Although “worked for” is rather an understatement… At the more ‘modest’ end of the spectrum, Linda ran a nursing and care agency startup branch within the Allied Healthcare network. But subsequently she served as Operations Manager at the company’s Head Office, before becoming Operations Director – taking charge of a whacking 120 network branches.
Linda’s educational qualifications include a BA in English and History, and a master’s degree in English Local History, which has helped her enormously with the understanding of demography. She has a Post Graduate Certificate of Education, and has worked as an educator, teaching GCSE and ‘A’ Level English and history.
Linda’s involvement with the Enterprise City High Growth (ECHG) programme – a Deloitte / Birmingham City Council collaboration – has shown further evidence of her business focus and passion for commercial development.
Terry, meanwhile, spent 23 years in pharmacy with Boots before the birth of Team Locum. He actually set out as a Relief Pharmacist, then progressed to the position of Pharmacy Manager, before becoming a Store Manager. But Terry’s progress through the ranks didn’t stop there. After stepping forward into the role of District Manager, he ultimately transitioned his focus in the direction of Human Resources, via a move into the position of Area Training and Development Manager. Human Resources is something which remains a field of high expertise for Terry, and is certainly of great value to Team Locum.
Terry’s educational achievements include an MBA, which he gained through Nottingham University, and he’s a true enthusiast when it comes to business-related associations. He is, for example, a Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (MCIPD) – the professional body for HR managers.
But as with Linda, it’s really Terry’s extensive experience as a healthcare professional which contributes that special ingredient to Team Locum.
MATCHING AND ARBITRATION
We’ve already seen that a healthcare background is extremely important for anyone who would seek to set up a locum agency. But does it really make any difference commercially? Absolutely! Crucially, the healthcare background and experience instills confidence both in clients and in locums, and confidence breeds prosperity. If a locum agency does not have that fully qualified, hands-on experience of the healthcare profession at its helm, it may not have the insight to arbitrate fairly when a client and a locum are in disagreement, or when an incident is reported. Incidents are often steeped in minutiae, and it takes an understanding of that minutiae to properly assess them.
Indeed, the superior insight of an agency run by qualified healthcare professionals is inevitably going to minimise the chances of disagreements arising in the first place. Clients are better assured of getting the best suited locums, and locums are better assured of getting the most comfortable bookings. At Team Locum, the entire system of matching locums with clients has built-in healthcare experience – right from the very start of the locum application process.
In the end, when unusual circumstances need on-the-spot attention, there really is no substitute for decades of healthcare experience. Whether the matter in hand is a complex Fitness to Practise case, or a debate about the signing of an official document, it’s imperative that an agency is able to arbitrate fairly.
Yet another vital facility for a healthcare locum agency, is a means for both internal and external staff members to consult an industry professional – as part of the day-to-day learning process as regards internal staff. This is something which can easily be taken for granted when the facility is consistently available. But when it’s unavailable, it’s very conspicuous by its absence. Rarely does a day go by at an agency of Team Locum’s size, without the need for a healthcare professional’s opinion on an important detail.
The need for locums to consult a vastly experienced guiding hand is often underestimated too. One automatically imagines newly-qualifieds having a need for that kind of additional care, but in fact, at Team Locum, it’s just as often been experienced locums dealing with the unexpected, who’ve sought, and received, substantial, invaluable advice.
A locum in serious need of that advice won’t pay for half an hour of Linda Yearsley’s time. It’s part of the service. That’s why locums have confidence in Team Locum. It’s why clients have confidence in Team Locum. It’s the difference between a LOCUM agency, and a locum AGENCY.