Working as a locum doctor is a lucrative option for a growing proportion of doctors in the UK. Locum work can be undertaken at various stages of your medical career. For example, you may consider taking a year out after completing your foundation programme before finalising which specialty you want to go in, or you may be a qualified consultant wishing to be self-employed and working more flexibly. If these thoughts resonate with you, locum work may be for you. This guide will provide you with insight into how you can find locum jobs in the UK.
What is a locum doctor?
“So, what does locum mean, exactly?” you may ask yourself. “Locum” is short for the Latin term “locum tenens” which translates to “place holder”; and as such, locums temporarily fill vacancies in a hospital, clinic, or practice owing to permanent staff being ill or away on leave. A locum contract is usually undertaken on a short-term basis but can also be long-term.
There are two paths to finding locum work in the UK; the first involves finding temporary medical jobs via the internal NHS bank, and the second registering with locum agencies for doctors.
NHS Bank Recruitment
A staff bank is a pool of doctors managed by an NHS Trust or third-party that recruits healthcare professionals to take up locum shifts. In order to maintain adequate patient safety and quality of care despite fluctuations in staffing, Trust hospitals heavily rely on temporary healthcare workers to take up shifts. As a result, there is no shortage of NHS bank jobs in the UK.
Although bank staff are entitled to the same benefits as a permanent worker in the same role after a 12-week qualifying period, NHS bank staff entitlements and rights vary depending on your contract as well as where and how much you work. Similarly, NHS bank pay rates are set by individual Trusts. Your salary is usually paid on a monthly basis.
There are several reasons to opt for registering with your Trust’s bank staff, such as:
Flexibility: in most well-run and organised Trusts, bank staff are given priority over agency workers, meaning a higher chance for you to take up available shifts that work best for you.
Cost-effective: working as a bank worker will save the NHS money as Trusts are charged a fee by the agency for providing a workforce.
Familiarity: working within your own Trust hospital will allow stability and provide an opportunity to foster meaningful relationships with doctors and patients.
Experience: you can explore and develop skills in a specialty you wish to explore.
Simplicity: Some trusts are now using mobile apps such as Patchwork to manage their staff banks. Such apps make searching for and booking shifts extremely easy.
There are, however, certain points that may make a locum agency a more appealing option for you. Firstly, the administrative side of things to get started as a bank worker may be lengthy since Trusts can be rather disorganised compared to agencies. The diversity of work opportunities is also limited to what is offered at your Trust hospital.
Lastly, you will be largely on your own when it comes to negotiations and having difficult conversations with seniors regarding your contract and pay rates. If these do not sound like dealbreakers to you, you may wish to enquire how to join the NHS bank staff at your Trust.
These are organisations with an expertise in locum jobs in medicine. They liaise with numerous hospitals across the country and keep track of all current vacancies, whether the shifts will be relatively manageable or difficult, as well as which hospitals offer the highest locum doctor pay rates. Locum agencies have an appointed responsible officer in place who will serve as your first point-of-contact.
Choosing this path to locum work cuts down a significant amount of research and administrative work on your part. They take charge of managing all compliance that needs to be completed before you start working, including DBS checks, Occupational Health Clearance, and Right to Work checks.
Other reasons you may consider registering with an agency rather than Staff Bank are:
Quicker registration: agencies are determined to get you the best possible shifts as quickly as possible, and consequently, they will endeavour to speed up the cumbersome process and make things a little easier for you.
Quicker pay: in contrast to Staff Bank agreements, agency workers are paid on a weekly basis.
Wider variety: with an agency you will not be restricted to the one Trust you are working for but all the Trust the agency works with, hence offering the opportunity to explore different NHS hospitals and career paths.
(Potentially) Higher pay: although pay rates vary from Trust to Trust and are more or less the same for bank staff and agency workers, locum doctors recruited via an agency tend to earn more than bank staff as they can simply look through and choose the highest paying shifts. Moreover, they will negotiate better pay rates on your behalf. Do, however, bear in mind that agencies may try to send you all over the country, meaning extra travel costs.
Nonetheless, you may be dissuaded to register with an agency by the fact that, usually, Staff Banks have first pick of the best locum shifts. Leftover shifts, often unsociable, are shared with agencies last minute. Many Trusts, however, still share most of their decent shifts with agencies.
Furthermore, rotating through various Trusts through your agency as a temporary worker will not allow you to fully integrate in a medical team and leave you with a lack of support. Working as an agency locum worker also means higher costs for the NHS as they are charged an agency fee.
Keeping the pros and cons in mind, you should carefully research the pool of locum agencies since they all claim they are the only ones that can find you the best work. Some of the well-known ones include NHS Professionals (NHSP), National Locums, and The GP Locum Agency.
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