A GP has set up a national online locum service to help GPs practices and primary care organisations find locums.

The website, Locum Monkey www.locummonkey.co.uk, offers a text messaging service which the company says provides a quick and cheap way of filling locum slots.

GP locums can register on the site free of charge, select the primary organisation areas they wish to work in and register their qualifications.

The site will then send a text message to relevant locums when GP practices and PCOs want to fill a vacancy. The cost to the practice is 10p per recipient for each ‘search for a locum’ message sent. Practices can choose whether to receive a phone call or a text from interested locums.

A premium service offered by Locum Monkey, for £4.25 per job, means interested locums have to reply direct to the website and practices can then log on and select the locums they are interested in. This enables employing practices to check the details of interested locums online and cut out unnecessary phone calls.

The site has been created by Dr Usman Qureshi, a locum GP working in England and Scotland, who said he thought it was the first national online marketplace for locum GPs. It has been launched for a month and so far 85 locum GPs have registered.

The site is designed to save doctors and nurses from hours spent phoning individuals to obtain cover at short notice and to be much cheaper than using locum agencies. Dr Qureshi said nurse banks and out-of-hours providers could also use Locum Monkey to contact locum staff by text to cover upcoming shifts.

He added: “I know how difficult it is to find locum cover in particular. While working in hospitals and in out of hours services, I witnessed the agonising task of managers trying to fill shifts owing to cancellations and sickness. They have to phone around all their staff individually trying to find cover. It is expensive and stressful.

“With Locum Monkey, practice managers can send a text to all, or selected individuals on the database, informing them of the vacancy. They save time and money and have an increased chance of finding someone quickly.”

Practices and PCOs need to register their details and set up an account which is only activated after the company has checked on their authenticity. Practices remain responsible for checking the qualifications of locums.