Huge numbers of medical professionals choose to locum every year, to take advantage of the benefits offered by this kind of career choice or to move into a different way of working. There’s been plenty of publicity about locums working in everything from GP roles to surgical positions and the way that this is helping to fill the gaps in UK health service provision. But what do you need to do to start your career as a locum?
There are plenty of possibilities
When you choose to locum, you’re stepping into the most flexible side of medical work, both with respect to the type of work you do and the way that you do it. You can choose your work to fit your lifestyle, whether you want to earn more in order to generate savings or pay off debts, or you’re looking to free up hours in your week for an additional activity such as a different part-time career or looking after younger children. The versatile nature of being a locum gives you flexible hours, a variety of locations and the opportunity to work in a varied range of clinical environments, from busy urban general centres to specialised departments. It’s a great way to take a step back from a busy schedule without jeopardising career progression, to widen the spectrum of your experience and improve your skill set.
Finding locum roles
There is a choice of locum lifestyles that essentially boils down to three options: locuming via an agency, being a freelance locum and joining a locum chambers. If you choose to work through an agency then this is one of the simplest ways to make sure that you get the work that you want at the rate of pay that you want to receive. A locum chambers operates very much like a barrister’s chambers – all members are self-employed and the chambers deals with the administration of booking in jobs. In return, members pay a percentage of their earnings to the chambers. Freelancing means finding your own work and setting your own rates – for many medical professionals this can be challenging, particularly if you have no previous locum experience, as you will need to manage your own tax, pension, accounts and sourcing work.
Depending on the type of locum role you are looking for, there are a number of pieces of equipment that you may need. It’s worth gathering many of the day-to-day items you use in your current role which you can take along with you – and remember to enquire after the equipment which may be available to you on-location. In addition, make sure you have access to the internet as you may need to manage your correspondence, work bookings and invoicing on-the-go. It’s useful to have a car too, as the more flexible you are in terms of the locations you can reach, the more likely you are to be offered work.
Never underestimate the value of a word of mouth recommendation, as this could be responsible for keeping you continuously employed. Networking is key for locums, no matter what your specialty – it’s an easy way to find out about new work and to get help when you’re working, if you need it.
Time keeping and commuting
Obviously you need to be organised as a locum as you’re working independently of an organisation’s workforce. Remember to factor in commute times before agreeing to complete a job – this can be difficult to manage when you’re not going to the same place every day but there are plenty of travel apps, map apps and sat navs to help you. Another important factor to take into account is how far you’re willing to travel for work, set a radius that you’re willing to stick to and take into account your commute time as well as cost of transport or wear and tear on your vehicle. Remember that you will also need to keep a record of the time spent – unlike contracted professionals you will be paid for each hour that you work on an hourly basis and that needs to be signed off if you want to be paid.
Account keeping, taxes and running your own business
No matter what type of locum you choose to be, you are essentially working for yourself. This means that you need to stay on top of accounts, tax and bookings as if you were running a business. For many, one of the big decisions is whether to incorporate as a limited company – if you do then you’ll pay only corporation tax (20% up to £300,000 of earnings) but there are additional complications when it comes to taking money from the business and the filings that need to be made. If not, then you will be freelance and need to complete personal tax returns and keep personal accounts. If you choose to work with an agency you will probably be PAYE, which can make it easier when starting out.
When you’re starting as a locum for the first time, the more you prepare, the easier it will be:
– Is there a locum pack? If so, ask for this as soon as you arrive.
– Have you worked with the computer system before? If not, arrive early and arrange an intro session before you start.
– Make a checklist for yourself to identify what you need to know as soon as you get there.
– Who do you contact if there are problems? Find out in advance.
Moving into a locum role provides a great career opportunity, and Locum Vision are there to help you make this transition. Remember to check back on our website frequently for the latest advice and jobs available in your area.