Working as a Locum

Want to learn about the advantages of being a Locum GP? Watch the following video to find out more…

I work as a locum because it suits me. I like the flexibility. It gives me the chance to do other things, like teach medical students, write, appear on TV and look after my family, including my sickly mother.

Nowadays, a lot of people are choosing to work as locums rather than working as partners in general practice ,or in salary posts in general practice. There’s now a very much larger locum workforce. We make up about a quarter of all working GPs. We’re doing an increasing amount of the work and we’ve got flexibility. Flexibility to do the things that I mentioned, and other things besides.

We’re even seeing GP partners leaving partnerships and choosing to take up locum work.  I know what that feels like. I too, have been a partner. I’ve been salaried. But I love the flexibility of locuming most of all.

On the other hand, it comes at a price. If you’ve ever locumed, you know that there are problems like professional isolation, trouble keeping up to date, especially information cascades from PCTs, hurdles with annual appraisal, and there will be bigger hurdles with revalidation coming soon.

There’s also the loneliness, the loneliness of not having colleagues in one particular place.  Of course, there are admin problems as well: getting paid on time, getting your pension form in on time, and so on. I could go on and on; in fact, a friend of mine’s done a whole research project on this, so I wouldn’t have the time to recap.

For me, I think one solution that helps deal with many of these issues is working in chambers for GP locums. Now, the idea of chambers isn’t particularly new. Barristers and architects have been working in this way for decades, and it suits them very well. But chambers are fairly new for GP locums.

What chambers offer is a gently managed organisation to give locums, what they need in terms of administrative support and a lot of support with professional development.  They help with audit, with feedback from practices and, of course, with networking with others. I think, for all these reasons, chambers are growing in popularity and spreading gradually throughout the country.

Now, working with chambers as a locum is completely different to being with an agency. For one thing, you’re still working directly with the practice. You’re not being employed by the agency, so you still maintain your pensionable income. Something, I think, is really important.  For me, however, the best thing about working in a GP chambers, is the fact that it unites locums. It helps them stay within a supportive fold.  I think at this time when there’s so many changes in the NHS, it’s really good to stand together as you know very well that divided we could fall.