Robbie Coull

locum GP service

GP Locum Cover


Online Booking Form


Terms and Conditions


Locum Advice Pages

Published Articles



Contact Me

So you want to be a locum

Different kinds of locum work available and how to go about getting work

main "So you want to be a  locum" page
Finance and expenses
Practicalities of locum work

This page deals with the following topics:

    1. What are the different kinds of locum work available?

    2. There are several ways to classify the different kinds of locum work.
      Here are two examples:
      Agency Work Self arranged work
      Hospital medicine Hospital Agency Locum Self arranged Hospital Locum
      General Practice GP Agency Locum Self arranged GP locum
      Full Time Part Time
      Willing to travel Full time residential locum work Occasional or part time residential locum work ("Busman's holiday")
      Working from home only Full time non-residential locum work in practices within a specified area. Part time non-residential locum work in practices within a specified area.


    3. How will I go about getting locum work through an agency?

    4. You give your details to a locum agency (they advertise in the BMJ classifieds and on hospital notice boards etc.).   This is the most common route for locum hospital work, but is a much less common route for GPs.

      What basically happens is that:

      • The agencies are contacted by hospitals/practices when they need locum cover.
      • Each agency phones round the list of doctors on their books until they find someone who is available and willing to work.
      • Each agency then puts that doctor forward to the hospital/practice by faxing a CV through to them.
      • Whichever agency provides an acceptable locum first gets the placement.
      • The successful agency contacts the doctor they put forward and gives them reporting details.
      • You turn up and do the work (if you are asked to work beyond you agreed hours make a note of them)
      • You fill in the time sheet and fax/post it to the agency
      • the agency pays you directly by PAYE.¬† This means they will take off your tax and NI contributions before they pay you.¬† (You are not self employed if you work exclusively for agencies and will not be able to deduct as many expenses from your tax bill).¬† You should be paid within one to two weeks at the most.¬†

      The agency makes their money by charging the hospital more than your hourly rate and keeping the difference, so remember that they work for you and not the other way round (although really it's a symbiotic relationship!).

      Now there are a few problems here which are important to bear in mind.

      • You need to be instantly and easily contactable if you are going to get work, or the agency will find someone else as it's usually first come first served.¬† This means a message pager for hospitals because you have to switch mobile phones off.¬† Message pagers and mobile phones have another advantage - you can turn them off!¬† Avoid giving agencies your home phone number as they will ring you at the most inconvenient times to check your availability etc. (and may continue to do this for years after you have stopped working for them!).
      • The hospitals usually fill locums internally so most of the time you will agree to go forward for work but not get it.¬† This is normal -don't let it demoralize you.
      • If you work for several agencies (which you will probably need to to get enough work) you need to keep careful note of who is offering you what work.¬† You may go forward for two posts at the same time and if you are accepted for both you will need to turn one down, which can make you unpopular with the agency involved.
      • Some agencies will put several doctors forward for the same locum to increase their chances of success.¬† This will reduce your success rate and mean you will spend a lot of time answering the phone!

      To work out which agencies to join, ask around the area(s) you want to work to see what agencies are popular there.  Contact personnel departments at the local hospitals and ask which agencies they use, or look out for locums working at the hospitals (the canteens at lunchtime are a good place to start) and ask them which agencies they use. 
      Remember that agencies are not all the same.  Rates vary, as do their abilities to place you effectively and some agencies will be much more pushy (or may even be misleading) in order to fill a placement and get the commission.  So choose carefully.  If you are unhappy with an agency change to a different one. 
      It is common to be listed with 2 or 3 agencies at a time to improve your choice of work (any more than this and your phone will never stop ringing!).

    5. How will I go about getting locum work without using an agency?

    6. For hospital locums you should contact the personnel departments of the hospitals you are interested in working in and ask them to add you to their list of locum doctors.  They will then contact you if they need locum cover.

      In general practice you can send your details to practices in the areas that you are keen to work. You can obtain details of the practices in your area in the Yellow Pages

      Many areas have local non principal groups that distribute lists of locums to the practices in their areas. They usually charge you a annual fee for the privelage (usually around £10-20 per year) but can be an invaluable source of local knowlege, post-graduate education and just general cameraderie. Many have a locally agreed rates structure. Some may not allow you to join unless you agree to stick to it. - but remember they cannot force you to agree to a rate (although they can decline to put you on their mailing list). It is a free market and the Office of Free Trade gets pretty unhappy if there is any suggestion of price fixing.

      Ask practice managers or other locums in your chosen areas how they find locums, or contact the local Dean of Postgraduate General Practice (usually attached to the local Medical School) for advice.
      main "So you want to be a  locum" page
      Finance and expenses
      Practicalities of locum work


      Valid HTML 4.01!

all content ©R. Coull 1999-2024