Working as a locum is an alternative to having a permanent position at a general practice or hospital. Whether you’re interested in locum work on a part-time basis to supplement your income or you want to become a full-time locum doctor, we can help.
According to NHS Digital, in March 2020 there were 1,192 locum GPs in the UK. There are both pros and cons to becoming a locum doctor, which we will highlight in this article.
What Does It Mean to Be a Locum?
Locum work doesn’t differ that much from the work you perform in a permanent position. There are some differences, such as the fact that locums are often called in to cover last-minute vacancies or to help clinics and departments cope with high demand.
While being a locum is not for everyone, it does offer a lot more flexibility, since you can choose only the jobs that fit in with your lifestyle (and give you a good work-life balance), as well as the jobs that help you further your career.
Being your own boss can be daunting but, as contractor accountants, we’ve worked with locum doctors before and can handle your accounts while you focus on finding placements and growing your business.
The Pros of Being a Locum Doctor
Should you become a locum doctor? Take a look at some of the advantages of opting for locum work and consider if it’s the right move for your career.
Set Higher Rates
Locums are able to set their own rates, which means they are likely to make more money than doctors in permanent positions.
In order to charge the right amount, consider industry rates and ensure you’re not setting a very low or high number. There are different types of locum work to choose from as well, each with its own rates. For example, if you’re a specialist, you can be looking at something between £50 to £100 an hour, while consultants can charge up to £150 (or more) per hour.
You’ll want to consider your experience as well – if you have many years of experience as a doctor, your rates should reflect that.
Additionally, the more experience you gain or the more skills you continue to develop over time, the higher you can set your rates. For this reason, it’s crucial that locums attend industry events, sign up for courses and so much more.
Have Varied Experiences
Another reason why locum work is so attractive for many doctors is the sheer variety of work available. You’ll be able to gain more experience from working in a range of environments, which is sure to help your career. It also means you won’t get bored, since each day brings something different.
More Control Over Your Career
Locum doctors have more control over their career, since they can work wherever they want and develop particular skills. As a locum, you can even explore different career options before settling into a specific one – and, because you had the chance to switch between roles and practices, you’ll be more confident that you’ve made the right decision.
Because you can choose to work fewer hours, you have more time to study for exams, sign up for a training course, explore charity work options, and more.
Enjoy Better Work-Life Balance
This control allows you to tailor your schedule to your other commitments as well.
When you’re first starting out, you may not want to refuse contracts and may accept all jobs. However, when you’re your own boss, you can set your own hours and decide which work to take on. If you don’t want to work for a hospital where you can be called in at any hour of the night and day, then you can choose something else.
It’s easier to take time off, spend time with family and simply enjoy life a little bit more when you make all the decisions.
You can also ask someone else to handle your accounts, which will free up even more of your time. As accountants for locum doctors, Gorilla Accounting will always make sure you’re getting the most out of your business – and not paying more income tax or National Insurance contributions than you should.
Go into Semi-Retirement
It takes a special kind of person to become a doctor, so it’s only natural that many doctors still want to help people even after they retire. Becoming a locum allows you to go into semi-retirement and still do what you love most without having to work long hours at a hospital.
For instance, you can work as a locum on a part-time basis, which still gives you plenty of time to balance your work with family time or hobbies.
Work in a Different Country
Not everyone has the opportunity to work in other countries, but locums have a very high chance of succeeding. Doctors are always needed, no matter which corner of the world you’re in, so this career path can be just what you need to build a whole new skill-set, see the world and learn more than you thought possible.
Other Things to Consider Before Becoming a Locum Doctor
Locum work may not be for everyone, some will be suited to a more permanent position instead. Below are a few things to consider to see if this type of work is of interest to you.
Many people thrive on the unpredictability of being a locum doctor, as it makes the job more interesting when every day is different, and they don’t know when they’re going to be called in.
For many others, this unpredictability is off-putting. It can be difficult to manage a schedule when you can be called away for work at any time. It’s worth considering, however, that, when you have your own business, you’re free to refuse last-minute work, since you have absolute control of your career.
Many doctors believe that a fast-paced job is more interesting than a regular 9 to 5 job. Others, though, find it hard to cope with a large number of shifts or with having to cover for maternity leave or sickness.
If you have a permanent job, you also have peace of mind that you have a salary coming in every month. As a locum, it’s up to you to find more work. This can cause a degree of uncertainty for many people and push them away from locum work. Still, good doctors are always be in demand, so there is a great opportunity to increase your earnings over and above a permanent position.
You’re unlikely to receive sick pay or pension contributions, so it is important to put money aside to prepare for the future and compensate for this.
Updating Your CV/Interviewing
As a locum doctor, you won’t have the same permanence as a full-time employee of a hospital or clinic. Because you have to find your own work, you will have to keep your CV up to date at all times, browse job boards often, network and interview for new jobs.
For many, this is an exciting opportunity to find interesting jobs and meet new people, but many doctors don’t appreciate the regular job hunt and would prefer to stay put. If this is your case, you may want to reconsider if locum work is the right option for you.
If you’d like to know for sure, you can try part-time locum work to get a taste of how it all works.
FreeAgent and Locum Doctors
Doctors are very busy, so the last thing they want is to have to manage their own finances on top of everything (and after a full day). The good news is that you don’t have to let this stop you from following your dream – an accountant will take on this burden for you, so you only have to focus on your day-to-day activities.
And long gone are the days when accountants charged an arm and a leg. As limited company accountants, Gorilla Accounting are affordable and give you all the support you could possibly need to run your business efficiently.
One of the tools we offer our clients is FreeAgent accounting software. This software is used by over 60,000 contractors, freelancers and locums, and gives you 24/4 access to your accounts. As a locum, you don’t want to have to wait until you get home and boot up your computer to check out your finances so, with FreeAgent, you can simply access your information from your mobile, tablet or laptop on the go.
FreeAgent also gives you real-time data, so you can quickly make informed business decisions. As a client, you can also get a same-day reply to your urgent queries if you contact us before 3pm.
Unsure if locum work is for you? Measure all the benefits and downsides, consider whether you could give it a try on a part-time basis to get a better grasp of what locum doctors do, and decide whether locuming complements your career and lifestyle.
Once you make a decision, Gorilla Accounting can handle the financial side of your business, from helping you set up a limited company to being available whenever you need it to answer your most pressing questions. And, of course, we can also help your business be more tax-efficient.