Locum digest

Getting to grips with cancellations

OT  talks with locum optometrists about the impact of cancellations on their working life – and shares AOP guidance on the topic

A diary sits on a white table net to a vase of pink carnations and a glass jar containing different coloured pieces of chalk
Pixabay/Karolina Grabowska

A last-minute cancellation when working as a locum optometrist can put a practitioner’s plans into disarray.

The potential for cancellations also means locum optometrists must allow leeway for this when planning their workload for the month.

While a loss of work can be inconvenient, it comes with the territory of the freedom that locum work offers.

OT speaks with locum optometrists about how they navigate cancellations, and speaks with an AOP expert about best practice in this area.

Planning around cancellations

Locum optometrist, Francesca Marchetti, shared that cancellations are one of the risks that locum optometrists take on as part of the role.

She highlighted that the cancellation of a block booking can have a particularly significant effect on finances, and cautioned locum optometrists against placing too much reliance on this form of booking.

“Cancellations can affect your monthly income so you need to budget accordingly,” Marchetti said.

When a booking is cancelled, Marchetti recommends that locum optometrists catch up on other tasks.

“Utilise time wisely – you might be contacted at 8am to ask if you can work that day at short notice. If you are up to speed on life admin, it's then easy to say ‘Yes’,” she shared.

She shared that there should be a relationship of mutual respect between practices and locums when it comes to cancellations.

Locum optometrists should not cancel a booking at short notice unless there are unforeseen circumstances.

“Never cancel a locum day and work somewhere else to receive a better rate. It devalues you as an optometrist and will blacklist you as a locum,” Marchetti emphasised.

Locum optometrist, Rebecca Rushton, shared that she expects the occasional cancellation working as a locum and views cancellations as a “bonus day off.”

“Overall, I keep my expenses low, debt to a minimum and see time as more valuable than money, so an extra day off every now and again is actually very welcome,” she said.

However, she noted that if bookings are repeatedly cancelled by a practice, it may be a sign that the relationship is not working.

“I may speak to the practice manager or find a more secure place to work,” she said.

Rushton shared that she has a “give and take” approach to cancellations.

“I try to give as much notice as possible if I need to cancel a day and I expect the same in return,” she said.

“I do experience increased cancellations around Christmas, so I plan for that period accordingly,” Rushton added.

Rushton tries to give practices at least six weeks notice if she needs to cancel a booking.

“Last minute cancellations are luckily rare and usually caused by unforeseen circumstances,” she said.

“I’ve been lucky that practices have been understanding on the rare occasion I can’t make it,” Rushton shared.

Never cancel a locum day and work somewhere else to receive a better rate

Francesca Marchetti, locum optometrist

Communication is key

Head of clinical and regulatory at the AOP, Henry Leonard, highlighted that it is important for both the practice and the locum optometrist to understand their obligations around cancellations.

This particularly applies to the amount of notice that is expected and how cancellation will affect payment for services.

“In general, each party will be expected to give as much notice as possible, whenever it becomes necessary to cancel a clinic day,” he said.

He highlighted that if a locum needs to cancel a booking, giving as much notice as possible means that cover can be arranged.

“As long as this isn’t a regular occurrence, and there is a good reason for the cancellation, practices are usually quite understanding,” he said.

“If a locum is unable to attend the practice themselves, it may be possible to send a substitute in their place, provided the practice is informed in advance,” Leonard shared.

He added that it is important that the locum has confidence in the substitute sent in their place – for example, that they have the appropriate qualifications and insurance.