Everything you need to know about becoming a medical locum

More and more healthcare staff are suffering from burnout and leaving the sector for good. In 2017, a survey of junior doctors found that 70% worked in permanently under-staffed conditions, 80% felt excessive work-related stress, and a quarter felt their job was damaging their mental health*. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way – after all, your health is important too. If you need a change, then becoming a medical locum could be the way to go. Not only do you enjoy more freedom and time to yourself, you get greater control over your rate of pay.

What is locum work?

A locum is someone who fills in when a regular employee is absent. You’d still be governed by your respective regulatory body. However, you get more flexibility due to the temporary nature of your work.

Getting started

Decide what kind of company you want to set up. A limited company tends to be more tax efficient, while an umbrella company means less admin and paperwork. Ask yourself: what suits you best?

Limited vs umbrella companies

Setting up a limited company takes just a couple of hours – just make sure you have all the relevant information to hand. Once you decide on a company name and business bank account provider, head online and register at Companies House. Once you’re given a unique company number, you can register for VAT and corporation tax. When that’s done, you’ll be the director of the company.

If you choose an umbrella company, you’ll have to pay tax through the PAYE system, make national insurance contributions at the source, and pay a fee to the umbrella company. The umbrella company will receive your pay from the client and make the necessary deductions for you. While this can be convenient, your take-home pay is often less than with a limited company.

Finding work

You don’t need extra qualifications to become a locum. Start working by registering with a medical locum agency – they match your skills and experience with the clients’ needs.

The agency will ask you for the following details:

  • Certificates of professional body membership, training certificates and relevant reports (all depending on your profession)
  • Proof of National Insurance
  • Up-to-date CV
  • Professional references
  • Passport
  • Passport size photograph
  • GMC number
  • Original certificates of Basic and Higher qualifications
  • Professional Indemnity Insurance certificate (if you have one)

Just so you know, you might need to complete a Locum ID check – this is to check your Right to Work in the UK. The agency will explain this in more detail.

There are other ways to get work too. Social networking sites like LinkedIn can be a useful way to find and maintain industry contacts. You might also want to create your own website to showcase your skills and experience to potential employers.

Getting paid

You’ll earn more money than you did as a regular employee. However, you’ll need to manage your money in a different way. For instance, you should set aside an amount for tax and National Insurance contributions. That’s not all. Now that you’re self-employed, you won’t receive the following benefits:

  • Paid holiday leave
  • Paid maternity leave
  • Redundancy compensation
  • Statutory sick pay

Your new higher rate can make up for the above. However, it’s still wise to set aside an emergency or holiday fund for those times when you need a little extra money.

Managing your time

One of the toughest parts of being a locum is making sure you always have a steady flow of work. If you can provide a solid income, you’ll be fine. A medical locum agency can do a lot of the legwork for you by reaching out to clients and setting up meetings. When work comes thick and fast, an agency can help manage your bookings, track payments and provide you with reminders. However, it’s a good idea to keep your own records of hours worked and remittance advice notes – this can be done in a spreadsheet.

You’re in good company

The leap from permanent employment to medical locum can be a scary jump. However, you’re not alone. Why not chat to other locums? See how they’re finding the experience. Agencies can give you a good idea of the current recruitment landscape and guide you along the way. If numbers aren’t your thing, an accountant can help you choose which contracting option is right for you, whether it’s registering your own limited company or picking an umbrella company.

Get started today

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* https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/mar/10/panic-chronic-anxiety-burnout-doctors-breaking-point