Proper cover for GPs essential

I READ your article on the upcoming Healthcare Improvement Scotland project (News, 26 January) with interest.

As a partner in a busy Edinburgh GP practice, and having worked across the UK and in Australia, I believe that accidents and mistakes could be prevented by ensuring adequate staffing at GP surgeries when regular doctors are on holiday or absent due to training or illness.

A simple step many GP practices could take is to improve the way they source locum doctors. From my experience, when a doctor is unavailable and another cannot be found at short notice, the workload of resident GPs increases dramatically. Often this means cancelled or rushed appointments or, worse still, a drop in the level of service to patients.

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I started, a locum availability search engine, to help surgeries find locum doctors quickly and easily, organise provision more efficiently and plan for shortages further in advance. The service is free to use for GP practices, with the NHS bearing no cost at all.

Dr Catherine Smith, West End Medical Practice, Edinburgh