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Full-time commitment

As the locum population within the optical sector continues to rise, the AOP is building resources and best practice guidance to help employees

Henrietta Alderman

Many people aspire to have flexibility in their working lives, to balance their work with their home lives and outside interests. The largest rise of any group within the AOP’s membership is locums. For some, it is a life choice. For others it is a necessity.

How this rise in the locum population plays out within the optical sector is interesting – and in some areas viewed with concern. Locums need to stay up to date with practice protocols, new developments and educational requirements. The practice owner needs to make sure that locums within the practice are both welcomed as part of the team and made aware of all the practice procedures, often within a very short space of time. Financially, there are potential gains and losses on both sides. Locums get freedom to move, but lose security of tenure and the rights and benefits of employment. Employers gain a flexible resource, but perhaps lose out on loyalty.

The need for autonomy

We also see an increasing number of relatively newly qualified optometrists opting to become locums. We can all draw conclusions as to why this might be, but, for the AOP, ensuring that the needs of locums are met is paramount.

Almost half of the non-employer respondents to our health and wellbeing survey stated their mode of practice as either self-employed or locum. And, again, half of those answering the survey worked part-time. The survey results are being further analysed, but it would appear that there is a link between stress and feeling less autonomy in professional working patterns. The AOP will be building resources and best practice guidance to help employees and employers, as well as some that will be specific to locums on the back of the information that the survey gave us.

"Almost half of the non-employer respondents to our health and wellbeing survey stated their mode of practice as either self-employed or locum"

Peer support

The AOP also has some very useful information for both locums and employers on our website. This includes the new locum information pack, employment advice and our upcoming locum contract template, as well as the free locum listing service.

We will also be introducing locum-specific CET events to support our locum members who can often feel particularly isolated.

The first service to be launched this year under our health and wellbeing theme is the Peer Support Line, which goes live in May.

We have been overwhelmed by the level of positive feedback we have received and the number of members volunteering to join the service. They feel strongly that the service is needed and that they want to help those members of the profession who are in need. A huge thank you to them all.

Locum register

To register as a locum or hire a locum, visit the AOP website.