Working out of hours: A checklist for GPs

Working out of hours can be a rewarding, challenging and interesting change of pace for doctors looking to try something different. With the increasing need for out of hours GPs, there are more and more vacancies for people in this kind of work. If it sounds like something that appeals to you, then it’s important to know what to expect. With the right tips for working out of hours, you’ll have everything you need to enjoy this new change of career.


Top tips for working out of hours

  • Make sure you have the right paperwork and experience

Whilst there may be a demand for out of hours GPs, it doesn’t mean that just anyone can walk into a role. It’s important that you have all of your paperwork and checks up to date. Each healthcare provider will have different requirements too, so it’s important to find out what they want in advance. Typical examples could include:

– proof of GMC registration

– child protection training

– recent DBS (disclosure and barring service) check

– MDO (medical defence organisation) certification

– CPR certificate

  • What are the requirements of the role?

Different providers will have different requirements of out of hours workers. Some will employ you as an employee, whilst others will hire you on a self-employed basis. You may be under contract to work so many hours a week, or the contract could be for a certain period of time. It’s also important to check whether you’ll be given a pension (NHS or other), what your leave entitlement is and what your notice period is for shift cancellation, etc. If you need help with checking your contract, the BMA has a great service for doing this.

  • Check your indemnity

One of the biggest concerns for potential out of hours workers is around indemnity, as the cover tends to be higher for out of hours workers. It’s possible that your out of hours provider will have this covered, but the MDO will need to be informed before you start work. You’ll also need to provide details on how many hours you will be working, whether your role requires you to be responsible for nurses as well as any other factors which could affect your level of cover.

  • Brush up on your IT skills

Working out of hours requires a good level of IT knowledge. You’ll be working with a lot of databases and systems, which may not be familiar to you already. If that’s the case – why not book in a session at the practice (during the day will most likely be easier) in order to familiarise yourself with the system and possibly have someone else show you the ropes. This is a much better solution than showing up on the day not knowing how to get started – it’s also less likely there’ll be enough knowledgeable people around to ask for help if you’re stuck.

  • Get your contacts in order

The work of an out of hours GP will require dealing with a number of other parties including social workers, local police, ambulance services, treatment centres, end of life services and more. Knowing who to contact in what situation is important and it will benefit you to secure the contact details of all the necessary people in advance. This will save you a lot of time and mean you can focus on patient wellbeing instead. It’s also worth brushing up on the etiquette of working with the people around you. Find out how you should address them and where things are kept. It’s also worth noting contacts for people who can cover for you in emergencies, who to contact if you cannot make a shift and contact details for other staff on shift. You may also wish to have the details of a few colleagues who could offer help and advice who may not necessarily work at the same practice as you. Remember, it’s always better to be prepared than flustered.

  • Find out whether or not there are training opportunities available

Some out of hours care providers offer funding for staff training and refresher courses – find out if this is the case at your practice. The kinds of areas you may benefit from are likely to include existing skills you learnt earlier on in your career such as CPR, child protection and telephone triage.

  • Learn from those around you

Make the most of the skills and experience of those who have already been working out of hours for a period – even at an administrative level. There’s a lot you can learn from them when you’re new to the role. Make the effort to socialise and be friendly to your co-workers – out of hours working requires a real team effort and you’ll need your co-workers as much as they need you.

With the right preparations, you can really make out of hours working work for you. It may take some adjusting but a bit of forward planning will go a long way towards helping you settle into the change of pace and ensure you get off to a smooth, stress-free start. If you are interested in becoming a GP for East Berkshire Primary Care Out of Hours Services, you can find out more about our current opportunities on our vacancies page.