General practitioner (GP) locum jobs are an attractive option for healthcare professionals seeking flexibility, variety, and the opportunity to take control of their careers. Locums work as independent contractors, providing short-term cover in GP surgeries, hospitals, walk-in centres, and other private-sector organisations. In this article, we will take a closer look at the ins and outs of GP Locum jobs, from how to become a locum to the most common challenges locums face, the different types of locum work available, how to negotiate your pay rate, and what to expect when working with different practices.
How do I become a GP locum?
To become a GP locum, you’ll need to have completed your training to become a qualified GP. After that, it’s a matter of finding work through GP recruitment platforms, recruitment agencies, or by directly contacting GP surgeries, hospitals, and other healthcare organisations. Before embarking on locum work, make sure to register with the relevant bodies, such as the General Medical Council (GMC), primary care trusts, or other regulatory bodies in your region, depending on where you plan to work.
Types of GP locum work
There are several types of GP Locum work available, including out-of-hours, in-hours, and sessional work.
Out-of-hours work is when a locum works in the evenings, at weekends, or during public holidays when the regular GPs are not available. In-hours work is when a locum works within regular surgery hours but for an entire or part of a day, covering for a physician who has taken a day off or for a team whose patient numbers have increased or is serving an area with a high population. Sessional work is when GP locums book one-off sessions with a particular practice, which could be on a regular basis or a one-time basis.
Negotiating your pay rate
When negotiating your pay rate, it’s essential to research the going rate for GP Locum work in your area and closely look at the average pay rate for the type of session you are going to work. Some factors to consider when setting your pay rate include experience, location, urgency of service, demand for the session, and session duration.
Working with different practices
Working with different practices as a locum can be an exciting opportunity to get experience in different settings and work with different people. However, when working with different practices, it’s essential to understand that each may have unique protocols and expectations. Therefore, it’s vital to research and familiarises yourself with the practice’s specific workings beforehand. This includes understanding the names of staff, expected practice documentation, and how sessions are structured with patients.
Challenges of GP locum work
One of the challenges that GP locum work presents is the lack of continuity of care. Because locum doctors often work for short periods, patients may not get the opportunity to build a long-term relationship with their physician. This can lead to a reduced level of trust, which can be a significant obstacle in the delivery of medical services. Additionally, it can be tough to keep track of a patient’s medical history, leading to potential miscommunication and lapses about their needs.
Another major challenge in GP locum work is dealing with unfamiliar clinical environments. A locum doctor may work at a new clinic each time, which presents the challenge of familiarising oneself with the workflow, electronic record systems, and colleagues within a limited period. Each clinic will operate differently, so it is imperative to be quick to adapt to completely new surroundings, equipment, and staff.
On top of these challenges, a GP locum’s schedule may often be overwhelming, with extended hours, weekend duties, and being on call, leading to fatigue and burnout. The unpredictable nature of the work can also contribute to stress and uncertainty about future employment arrangements.
Moreover, there can exist an implicit supervisor-employee dynamic that might lead to GP locum doctors feeling they are undervalued. Supervisors may treat Locum doctors as temporary workers who are not part of the established staff, leading to experiences of isolation and lack of inclusion. Some GP Locums have expressed a feeling of being either overworked or undervalued, which can lead to reaching out to third-party Locum service providers or seeking new employment elsewhere.
Despite the numerous challenges associated with GP locum work, several strategies can be implemented to mitigate the difficulties that locum doctors face. One key aspect is developing effective communication channels between the locum doctors, supervisors, and patient care teams. This will ensure that all parties involved are well-informed and up-to-date on the patient’s status, leading to better continuity of care.
Additionally, it can be helpful to invest in a dedicated training programme for locum doctors. This would provide knowledge of the culture, medical records system, and processes of the healthcare institution, making integration smoother and more efficient.
It is crucial to recognise the value of GP locum work and provide appropriate compensation for the services provided. This can reduce feelings of undervaluation and aid in the retention of these skilled medical professionals. A locum doctor could be just as vital to a healthcare institution as its permanent staff.
For healthcare professionals who crave diversity and adaptability in their work, GP locum jobs offer an ideal career option. Experienced GPs with a qualification can explore opportunities for locum work through various channels, such as GP recruitment portals, recruitment agencies, or by contacting healthcare organisations directly. The range of available work includes sessional, in-hours, and out-of-hours, which provides locums with flexibility that can suit their lifestyle.
Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.