From trainee to The Lockdown Locum

Published on: 19 Jan 2022

Hello and welcome to my blog series. Over the next few months, I hope to give you a practical insight into being a GP locum. Perhaps you just want to know what a locum does all week? Maybe you’re toying with the idea of jumping on the locum locomotion?

Locum GP

To start this month’s instalment, I’ll be kicking off with the reasons I became a locum GP in the first place, and explore whether the grass really is greener on the other side.

I achieved CCT in August 2021, and went straight into full-time locum work. A ballsy move, some would say.

But being a locum has given me freedom to arrange my GP work around the separate business I run. I decide my hours and working days, and take leave when I want. I can book sessions months in advance, or open them up for short notice bookings. Depending on my business commitments. I can work any time of day. Flexibility really takes on a new meaning.

Besides working hours, I can control location, location, location. Fate would have it that just as I buy a house and CCT, my non-medic husband would get a fabulous job offer - but it came with a catch as big as Moby Dick – it was in a city over 150 miles away. Not wanting to abandon our house (or our cat), I have the freedom to work in his city and my hometown on a pattern that works for me.

As a locum, I really enjoy travelling to new practices. Driving through novel parts of the countryside gives me a sense of wonder at new sights and sets me up with positivity for the day. As a bonus, I usually time my sessions to miss rush-hour traffic. Travelling to new places isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, however. So if that’s you, don’t worry – I find that I’d have enough work for about 8 to ten sessions of work a week from five practices, but personally choose to work across ten. Some even block book my calendar for up to four weeks at a time. At one practice, I work as long-term maternity cover – so continuity is easily possible.

In terms of the professional and social aspect, locum work isn’t as isolating as you might think. I get unrivalled professional support being a member of NASGP locum chambers. Meanwhile at work, practice staff everywhere I’ve been are supportive and friendly, to the point of swapping wedding planning tips over lunch. Which leads me onto the important issue of lunch and breaks!

Being a locum, I set my own workload. Within your terms and conditions (T&Cs) you can state exactly how many patients you’ll see, and in what time period; your number of face-to-face vs telephone appointments, how much admin time you need; and whether or not you’ll do practice admin. Very few practices have quibbled with what I have set up within my T&Cs, and of course you can negotiate on minor changes if needed.

So far, it’s been, hand on heart, the way I wanted. I’ll sign off here, but I couldn’t depart without a quick mention about pay, as it’s frequently asked about. To give you an idea - if I were to work full-time (ten sessions) a week taking out seven weeks’ holiday and study leave a year, I could gross £142,000 a year with pension being paid by the surgery on top.

If I decided not to charge pension on top of my fee but to keep the overall rate the surgery pays the same, this would come up to £162,000 a year. I’ll go into more detail later in the blog series about setting rates, sick/maternity pay and giving yourself as much security as possible. Until then, take care and stay safe!

The Lockdown Locum is a locum GP in England, who wishes to write under a pseudonym