Planning Your F3 Year: A Timeline
So you’re in your F2 year and you’ve decided you want to have an F3 year. Hopefully you’ve had some thoughts about what you want to do with it. The question is, when can you start organising things?
The timeline will differ depending on what type of F3 year you’re planning, but there are some important steps everyone should take to ensure you can have the great experience you’re looking for.
This article breaks down the key steps you should take during your F2 year to plan your dream F3 year.
1️⃣ ASAP - Decide what you want to achieve in your F3 year
If you’ve not yet decided, think carefully about what you want to do during your F3 year and where you want to do it, as this will affect your timeline for organising yourself. If you’re not sure yet, have a look at our article To F3 or Not To F3 which breaks down the thought process behind choosing whether to take an F3.
Research your various options and decide what fits you best. Our F3 Options Explained article a comprehensive breakdown of the F3 options and their pros and cons.
2️⃣ OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER - Research your options and application deadlines
For those planning to do locum work, this doesn’t apply to you right now. You’ll have more time to sort things out...
If you are interested in a clinical fellowship in a specific specialty, and you know where you want to work, start to approach the rota coordinators for those teams and ask what options they expect to have and when they tend to open applications.
These will usually be advertised on NHS Jobs, so you can search for them beforehand. Sometimes applications can open as early as December or January for an August start if it’s a competitive fellowship that recurs every year, so it’s worth finding out as early as possible.
This way, they’ll have your contact details on file and will know you’re keen. The fellowships in big cities like London and Manchester will be advertised earlier than smaller locations and tend to be more competitive.
If you’re planning on working abroad, you’ll likely need to allow much more time to interview, get a job lined up, plan visas and medical licences, and get everything else in places that that takes much more time to organise than if you’re just locuming in the UK! Once you know where you want to work, find out when they tend to start advertising job opportunities for your F3 year and work back from there.
3️⃣ DECEMBER - Start getting your CV up-to-date and collect all your professional documents
Most roles you apply for will require an up-to-date CV, as well as copies of your professional documents. It’s worth getting these together now so you have sufficient time to spare for any problems or missing items.
Your CV should always be tailored towards the specific job you’re applying for, and you can use the process each time to identify any gaps or room for improvement. You can use our article which provides advice for updating your CV in your F3 year to help.
For a better understanding of which professional documents you might need, see our article on Compliance for F3 Locums. This list will cover everything you need when applying for clinical fellowships, locum work as well as jobs abroad.
As your F2 year progresses, it’s also worth asking your supervisors or consultants in the specialties you enjoy to act as a reference for you, for whatever you’re applying for!
4️⃣ JANUARY ONWARDS - Seek out opportunities at your current Trust
If you want to explore options for work at your current Trust that haven’t been advertised yet, speak to the rota coordinators in the departments you’re interested in.
Sometimes they’ll know in advance if a rota gap is coming up and can negotiate a fellowship or Trust-grade post for you. This is win-win for the department because it costs them less than hiring a locum and they know the shifts will be covered.
Being proactive is important in these situations, because often the departments don’t have the resources to seek people out in advance, so it can be left quite last-minute. You can also use these opportunities to find regular bank work with departments.
Sometimes you can negotiate benefits such as the Trust paying for courses or exams for you, if you organise it in advance and can prove that it’s beneficial to them.
5️⃣ APRIL TO JUNE - Start contacting Trust banks and locum agencies
Spring is the best time to start getting registered with banks and agencies. Any earlier and they won't know what work they have available yet, and they are likely to politely ask you to come back nearer the time.
For current F2 doctors using Messly's locum service, we will put you on a waitlist until around April, when we will then invite you to create your profile and start receiving offers from our chosen locum agencies.
Decide what kind of shifts you’re looking for, in which specialties and where, and then decide whether to work through a Trust bank or locum agency. For help making this decision, check out our article on Finding Work as an F3 Locum: Bank and Agency.
To understand how much work you’ll likely need and how to plan your finances, you might also want to read our article, How To Make A Living As A Full-Time Locum.
Once you’ve done this, get in touch with them and let them know what you’re looking for. The application forms and compliance process for both Trust banks and locum agencies can take a while, so it’s worth doing this in advance of finishing your F2 year so it doesn’t delay you in getting work set up.
The Messly service is a great way to put you in touch with the top agencies in your region, who can offer you relevant work. For more information, see our article explaining The New Way to Find Locum Work. You can also find out how we differ to signing up to an agency directly in our article here.
It’s also worth speaking to locums at the Trust you’re going to be working at, to see which agencies they tend to get their work through already.
6️⃣ JUNE AND JULY - Start booking shifts
Shifts will usually be posted on internal Trust banks and agencies four to six weeks in advance, but obviously shifts can come up last-minute with sickness as well.
If a block of shifts comes up in a specialty you’re interested in, the agencies will usually contact you directly, but for ad hoc shifts they tend to send out generic emails with lists of the dates and times and you’ll have to contact them to be considered.
Make sure you’re on the right mailing lists for your agencies and banks, and ensure it’s set up on your phone, so any shifts come up at short notice you can put yourself forward as soon as possible.
Keep in touch regularly with your named contact at the agency or Trust bank so they’ll think of you when any new relevant shifts come in.
✅ Our Top Tips for Planning Your F3 Year
- Start your research as early as possible once you know what you want to do
- Get your CV and documents together so you’re ready to apply for any opportunities that come up
- Sign up with Trust banks or agencies a few months before you want to start locuming
- Start looking for shifts around four to six weeks before the end of your F2 year
If you follow the above timeline, it should minimise your stress and make sure you’re well prepared to secure the kind of work you’re looking for in your F3 year. Of course, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to get in touch with us directly and we'd be happy to help.
Best of luck!
This article is part of a wider series, supporting doctors like yourself with a comprehensive set of guides to ensure your F3 year is a success. These guides cover everything from initial planning, options for moving abroad, help with finding work, and tips for making the most of the experience. Click here to visit our F3 Resource Hub to explore the full list of guides and articles.
Find locum work on your terms
The best locum agencies together in one place, competing to find you the best locum shifts. Managed for free through your Messly account.