VIDEO: Answering the 10 Most Common Questions About Locuming for Junior Doctors
Where can I find work? How much will I get paid? Are there any free services to help me?
In this video, Dr Evey Clay, an Opthalmology SpR, joins us to answer the 10 most common questions junior doctors ask about locuming.
00:00 - Intro
00:36 - What's the difference between staff banks and locum agencies, and which is right for me?
03:16 - How can I register with staff banks and trusts?
03:48 - How do I choose a good agency?
04:18 - How Messly’s locum finding app works
04:56 - What are the most common specialties for SHOs?
05:29 - Can you locum in a specialty you haven’t worked in before?
05:56 - How much will my hourly rate be as a locum?
06:43 - How much can I earn in a year as a locum?
07:49 - Do I need an annual appraisal as a locum?
08:36 - What are my employment rights as a locum?
Hey guys, what's up. My name is Eva clay. I'm a junior doctor in ophthalmology. And today I've joined forces with Messly to bring you a video on the top 10 things I wish I knew before locuming.
The guys and girls at Messly understand how difficult it can be starting out as a locum doctor and how stressful it can be as well. And that's why they've collected the top 10 most frequently questions that they've received over the years from new and experienced doctors alike and we're going to be talking about all of these in this video today. Covering everything from how to find locum work, how much you can expect to earn, any concerns you might have about appraisals and your employment rights as well.
What's the difference between staff banks and locum agencies, and what's the difference?
So let's get into it. First step then, I've heard about staff banks and locum agencies as ways of finding locum work. So to answer this question, let's have a look at what each of these are.
So what is a staff bank?
A staff bank is a pool of doctors who have signed up to a specific trust to fill out their vacant shifts and are usually managed by the trust themselves. They're mostly made out of doctors who have worked in that trust before. For example, in a previous rotation, but you can still sign up to a trust bank, even if you've never worked at that particular hospital before. This is actually how I started locuming. I just signed up for a shift in the department I was already working in. And so in that sense, I signed up to the staff bank straight away.
What is a locum agency then?
So these are organizations that specialize in filling vacant shifts for a number of hospital trusts, usually made up of a recruitment team whose job is to match you to a role that you want.
They charge the trusts a fee for finding a locum doctor and also managing the registration process. Unlike hospital banks, locum agencies aren't linked to one specific hospital or trust. So they've got access to a number of hospitals or trusts across the country.
The second question then, which one is better? A locum agency or a trust bank?
So Messly has actually done a really deep dive into this topic on their website. I'm going to link that down on the description below. It's a really complex topic, but in a nutshell, here are the pros and cons of each. Hospital banks are great because you're working directly with the trust, which makes it easier for you to build relationships and for your part of the team. Plus, you're also saving NHS money because they're not having to pay a fee to locum agencies as well. One thing to note is that trusts of well run and well organized staff banks will fill up most of their shifts directly.
So only leaving the scraps for these locum agencies. And in that case, it would make it better for you to work directly with the banks. Agencies on the other hand are great because they give you wider work opportunities. When you sign up with a locum agency, you have access to all the trusts that they work with. So you can be sent anywhere in the country that you want. Locum agencies are also known for being generally really helpful. You'll have a recruiter assigned to you whose job it is to look after you, make sure that you get registered and help book you into shifts. They can also help negotiate better rates on your behalf if you'd like to avoid any of these awkward conversations.
The million dollar question then, which one is right for you?
Deciding on this really depends on your personal circumstances, as well as the trust that you want to work in.
Some of these trusts are really well organized and have really well run hospital banks, and they tend to fill out most of their shifts on their own. So these are the ones that are really great to work for. Sometimes though they can be terrible. So it'd be much better off working for a locum agency instead. I think the key is to make sure that you talk to your friends and your colleagues about the hospital or trust that they're working in if you want to be working there as well and get a feel of how well organized they are before you decide for yourself.
The third question is, can I register with multiple agencies and trust banks?
In short, yes, you definitely can. And you should, you should sign up to at least two to three local agencies and hospital banks as well. The only downside to this is that it involves a lot more paperwork.
This includes filling a number of application forms during your DBS checks, as well as sorting out multiple references as well. It's a bit of extra effort, but it's definitely worth it. Because as a locum doctor, you are a freelance worker and it's definitely your responsibility to fill up your schedule as much as possible.
The next question, there are so many locum agencies, how do I know which are good agencies to work with?
This is a difficult one for sure, because there are so many locum agencies out there. And at the last count, there are over 450, which is insane. The best agencies have plenty of work in your region, have a good reputation, have honest and helpful recruiters as well as a simple registration process. But frankly, there are others which are less reliable and less honest as well, which is one of the main reasons why Messly set up their low finding app.
Let me tell you a little bit about the Messly app:
Now, Messly's locum service brings together only the best reviewed locum agencies who offer the best selection of locum work in your area before you even share your contact details. You can also see ratings and reviews of these locum agencies written by doctors before you even speak to them so you know which one's the perfect match for you.
They also have a service called Docs, which helps you get registered with agencies and staff banks with less hassle. You learn what registration documents you need to provide, store them in one place and share them with locum agencies in one click. And if you want to check it out, you'll find a link in a description below. So we've covered about how to find work. Next step then is thinking about what type of work you want to do.
Right then, what are the most common specialties for SHOs to locum in?
Well there's actually been over 19,000 SHO locum jobs added on Messly in the last 12 months alone. Looking at a breakdown of these, over 85% of the locum SHO shifts will fall under the following specialties. So this is where the bulk of the work is. There are vacancies in other specialties, but if you are looking to fill your diary to the brim with locum shifts, then you'll need to include work in these areas. For example, I did lots of locum shifts in orthopaedics and in ANE. It's really important to note though, that you can't do locum shift in a GP practice as an SHO.
Next question. Can I locum in a new specialty that I haven't worked in before?
Yes, you definitely can. And it's actually a really great way to get experience in a specialty that you've never worked in before.
This might appear daunting at first, but Messly has come up with some great guides to help you look into what to do and prepare yourself for working in a new specialty. You can access these through the blog, which is linked in a description below. Okay.
So onto pay, lots of people have asked about this before, which brings us to our next question, which is how much can I expect to earn as a locum?
The answer is that your pay will actually vary widely depending on your grade, your location, and how many hours you're willing to work. However, the rough UK hourly average by grade is about 40 to 50 pounds for an SHO, 55 to 80 pounds for a registrar and over 80 pounds for a consultant. If you're working in London, then you should expect a little bit less than these average rates, because they've decided on the London cap or a pan London rate, which all the hospitals in London have agreed on.
So you can expect to earn about 36 pounds as an SHO, 44 pounds as a registrar and about 75 pounds an hour as a consultant. And although it is uncommon, there are some instances in which some trusts will exceed the cap and pay more, known as break glass provisions, especially for registrars and consultants.
The next question is if I locum, what might my annual salary end up being?
So locuming is significantly more lucrative than working in a training post. So for example, if you're working three days a week, working 10 hour shifts as an SHO and earning about 45 pounds an hour, then you'll be earning just under 6,000 pounds in one month, but that's before your tax and other deductions like your pension. That's 70,000 pounds a year, which is significantly more, I think almost twice as much as a trainee would get in a similar role.
One thing to note though, is that even though the pay is really good, it's really important to sure that you've got your finances well planned out before you start locuming. This is because locum work can dry out really quickly. And if you're ill, for whatever reason, you won't be paid for the shifts that you can't work. So I think it's really important to have a nice chunky emergency fund before you go into locum work and also have in mind what kind of financial goals you have for your year of locuming as well. If you need more help managing your finances as a locum doctor, then check out Messly's article on this, which I'll link in the description below where you'll learn about tax codes, national insurance, and pension contributions.
Next up then, do I need to do an annual appraisal as a locum?
The answer is generally yes, but if you ask around, you'll hear of stories of F3's who've managed to get away doing one, especially if they're going to specialty training the next year, where they can ask their supervisors to do one for them, but it is risky.
And in the past, there have been trainees who have been called out on this during the GMC re-validation. However, there are some exceptions in needing an annual appraisal. For example, illnesses, injuries, or other unforeseen circumstances. On a side note, re-validation of the GMC is mandatory, but only happens every five years. And when this happens, you'll need to provide your appraisal over the past five years with proof for any of the years that you've missed. Whether you want to take that risk is ultimately up to you, but it would be best if you did your appraisal during your locum year off, just to prevent any issues down the line.
This brings us to our final question, which is what employment rights do I get as a locum?
So first step is about annual leave. Believe it or not, locum doctors do have rights for annual leave, but to make it simpler, most trusts and agencies will pay you in lieu of annual leave instead. So this is sometimes referred to as roll up holiday pay.
However, this must legally show up on your pay slip, separate to your basic pay. The next employment right is break. So as a locum doctor, you are entitled to an unpaid break, but the amount of time you can take varies between trusts.
So make sure you confirm this with your trust, rota coordinator or locum agency before you start. Lastly, sick pay. So as an agency worker, you're not entitled to sick pay for missed shifts, but if you're working through a staff bank, you may occasionally be paid for shifts that you are unable to work. This can vary though. So make sure you check with your rota coordinator first. Both bank and agency workers may be entitled to statutory sick pay provided they meet certain eligibility requirements depending on national insurance contributions, but this is limited to their 96.35 pounds a week.
At the time of this video, we'll link the details in a dot gov page in the description below.
And that's it from us today you guys, I hope you've enjoyed this video. Today, we've talked about the top 10 most frequently asked questions about locuming from doctors old and new. Let us know in the comments below if you've got any questions, remember to hit the like subscribe.
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This article is part of a wider series of resources and guides that are designed to support you as a locum doctor, covering areas such as getting your first job, managing your finances, understanding your rights, and many more. Visit our Locum Doctor Hub for everything you need to know about locuming today. Additionally, if you're considering an F3 year, you might also find it useful to look through the selection of resources we've put together in our F3 Resource Hub.
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