Becoming a locum GP is a rewarding move at any stage in a GP’s career; as a student, you can do locum work in between terms and exams to gain experience, established GPs can try locum work to enjoy greater flexibility and explore different avenues, and very experienced GPs can use locum work as a way to semi-retire as they can work as and when they choose.
But it is not a choice to be taken lightly! Locum work’s flexibility and greater remuneration may appear attractive, but many people may find they prefer the regularity and community aspects of being in a permanent position with a facility or practice.
As your partner in achieving your short and long-term career goals, Key Medical Services has created a guide to help you make an informed decision about becoming a locum GP by looking at some of the advantages and disadvantages in greater detail.
What is a locum GP?
A locum GP is a healthcare professional who is registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) as a practitioner or GP who chooses to take contracted, ‘temporary’ positions with trusts, private facilities, and NHS services. Through a simple process, they operate as either self-employed limited companies or use an umbrella company to company which will process admin and paperwork on their behalf.
The advantages of locum GPs
Locum work can afford you the freedom to choose where you work, for how long, and when you are available to work allowing you to fit assignments around your family, social life, studies, hobbies or vocational pursuits. 78% of locum GPs cite flexible working hours as a key reason to becoming a locum (Pulse GP Jobs Survey, 2015).
Whether you only want to work one day a week, on weekends, out of hours or you like the idea of working part-time for two different practices (earning a full-time salary) this type of flexibility is available to locum GPs.
Earn good money
As locums operate as contractors, they typically earn higher rates than permanent positions sometimes offer. This makes locum work a great way to supplement your income. If you are a partner or employed GP looking to supplement your income, or a retired GP looking for occasional work, locum shifts can be invaluable.
Grow your experience and network
Working as a GP locum is a great introduction into general practice outside of your training. As you work in different roles within different primary care settings your personal network will grow, and you may find you enjoy one aspect and decide to specialise. It is a great opportunity to try things out and see what suits you.
As a locum GP your employment status is that of “contractor” which means you can set yourself up as a business and some of your expenses (e.g. travel/mileage, training costs, equipment etc) have the potential to be a tax-deductible expense and can be offset against your earnings.
Reduced administrative duties
Whilst locums are expected to complete routine administration for each patient appointment and are advised to keep notes and records of their assignments in case of patient complaints, there is considerably less admin to complete than a permanent GP position would entail. This means locums have the freedom to focus on providing exceptional patient care.
Disadvantages of GP locum work
Lack of stability
There is no guarantee when it comes to locum work. Whilst there will always be opportunities available, they may not always be in a convenient locale to your home, or at the times when you want them. Whilst there is the upside of flexibility if you have a good network in place to find opportunities, when you start locum work it can be hard to establish this and the work might be irregular.
Fortunately, Key Medical Services can help you source top locum assignments that suit you, your career goals, and your lifestyle. We also offer admin and compliance support, as well as full diary management so you do not need to worry about gaps in your CV or pay.
It can be harder to build relationships with your co-workers and feel part of a team if you are constantly moving to different surgeries and practices. Although longer-term contracts are available, it can be difficult to connect with colleagues who see you as a short-term, or replaceable fixture.
The need to adapt quickly
As you can find yourself at lots of different facilities in a short space of time, you will need to be able to cope with different internal technologies and systems, this can be disorienting at first but tends to get easier with time and being comfortable with a wide range of systems can make you a more attractive clinician for better assignments.
How to become a locum GP?
If you are considering becoming a locum and are looking for advice on how to register as a limited company or source assignments, our team at Key Medical Services would be happy to guide you through the process and offer ongoing support through every new assignment. They can help you get your compliance levels up to 100% and help source the best locum opportunities that suit your career goals.