Crisis: it’s 07:32 and the local chemist has just received a call from their pharmacist, who is significantly unwell, and unable to attend work. The establishment hasn’t the internal resources to replace an absent pharmacist.
But the resolution turns out to be quite straightforward. It takes a single phonecall to Team Locum – a leading UK provider of forward-planned, short-notice and emergency locum pharmacist and optometrist support. Within moments, a professional, well-accredited, replacement pharmacist is on her way, and the owner of the chemist can relax. From “crisis” to “business as usual”, in one simple action.
Whilst the supply of locum support at short or zero notice may sound simple when viewed from the outside, for the supplier it’s a much more complex process. Team Locum’s main Bookings Team meet the challenge of allocating locums to UK pharmacies and opticians on a daily basis. They’re intuitive, fast-acting, and highly people-focused, but how do they arrange that cover so quickly, with little or no advance warning as to where it might be required? Let’s go behind the scenes…
BEHIND THE SCENES AT A SPECIALIST LOCUM AGENCY
Team Locum’s supply system relies heavily on human expertise, technology and preparation, but one of its fundamental assets is scale. As a long-established business, Team Locum has progressively recruited a wealth of reliable, professional locums, covering areas across the UK. The large scale of the operation gives the Bookings Team a range of options when it comes to arranging rapid or instant cover, but they need to build and manage those options, and they have to be ever-ready.
The readiness starts with an out-of-hours, on-call emergency contact service. Existing clients are able to use the Team Locum website to easily and immediately push requests for future cover directly onto the agency’s internal booking system. But when emergencies arise, being able to reach for instant help by phone is of enormous value to any pharmacy or optician.
Then there’s the mountain of groundwork carried out at the Team Locum office. Organised groundwork, combined with the benefits of scale, makes it possible to budget emergencies into the picture. It’s part of the Bookings Team’s job to stay up-to-the-minute on the locums’ day-to-day circumstances, and assess who’s going to respond to a request for rapid cover at any given time. It’s a big task, but the real work is done before the emergency calls come in.
RECRUITMENT BEYOND RECRUITMENT
Team Locum is meticulous in its recruitment of locums. As well as providing ongoing proof of their accreditations, locums need to cite professional referees, and until those referees have convinced the HR Team that an applicant will meet the standard, no application is accepted. That’s an obvious way to start a mechanism which depends on reliability and quality. But what most people probably don’t realise, is that even after acceptance, the recruitment process continues…
The aim of the Bookings Team is to maintain a pool of the most professional, reliable and accommodating locums in the industry. And this is not just idealistic theory. If you look at the Team Locum database, you quickly notice two extremes of status among available locums…
- Locums whose every available day translates into a booking.
- Locums who get no work at all.
All of the above are professionally-referenced and technically viable personnel, but there’s a very obvious divide when it comes to actual employment. This is a direct product of what’s really a secondary recruitment process, implemented by the Bookings Team. Team Locum’s collective of Consultants, Administrators, Managers and Directors (all of whom work on-site, in the thick of the activity), are constantly looking for signals as to which locums will prove most impressive and dependable. Those signals move recruitment out of the realm of theory, referencing and initial impression, and into a very practical arena of day-to-day decision-making.
Naturally, an operation of Team Locum’s scale needs sophisticated technology and technical organisation to keep the most relevant information at the fingertips of the Bookings Team. But the groundwork that matters most, is human. It’s about communication, rapport. The Team obviously care about clients – that’s why they’re trusted by the nation’s top pharmacies and opticians, from the huge, household brands through to those vital, local, community establishments. But they also care about good locums. Identifying, and then looking after good locums pays off when emergencies crop up and the Team need an instant response.
If, as a casual observer, you watch Team Locum fulfil an emergency booking request, the almost blink-and-you-miss-it duration between the initial phone-ring of the client’s call, and the locum confirming they’re en route, can look just like magic.
And in a way it does have the mechanics of a magic trick. All the time-investment and strategy is conveniently tucked away out of the client’s view.
THE ROOTS OF THE MAGIC
But the dynamics of the operation are founded on the opposite of trickery. Team Locum’s success owes a great deal to the business’s empathy with, and deep understanding of the healthcare industry – both from the clients’ and the locums’ angle. Team Locum Directors Linda and Terry Yearsley both have a background as healthcare professionals. Indeed, Terry remains active as a pharmacist, working as one of the many locums who deliver Team Locum’s high quality service at the sharp end. There is surely no better way for a business to keep a finger on the pulse of an ever-changing scene, than for a company director to be out in the field, having the exact same experiences as the rest of the service’s operatives. In maintaining that empathy with both locums and clients, the business is in a great position to predict and anticipate. And prediction, ultimately, is what providing an emergency service is all about.