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Working as a locum Doctor

by | Apr 24, 2020

Last week Dr. Ahmed wrote a blog about life as a GP. As he explained, no two days in general practice are the same. My current role in general practice is that of a locum GP and I would add that no two roles in general practice are the same either.

Locum GPs and doctors in general are physicians who work in different surgeries and hospitals on different days, looking to fill gaps in hospital and general practice rotas. As a rule, doctors are able to work solely as a locum doctor after completing FY2, however, entering the locum world at this stage will mean the doctor is no longer in a training program. There is a growing trend in the profession to do an “FY3” year after foundation training. Doctors see this as an opportunity to work as a locum in specialties they were not able to cover in their foundation training rotations.

This trend has become more prevalent in recent years, as it is now more difficult to switch between specialties than it once was. As a result, doctors want to try the various specialties they may be interested in to see if they enjoy it enough to enter a training program in a particular branch of medicine.

Locum work is very different to being in a training program. There is an inherent instability in switching wards, hospitals and even cities on a regular basis, which leads to an increase in risk. A doctor in a training program will have the support of their team, other doctors, nurses and allied health professionals they have been working with, looking after patients they already know. A locum doctor will be expected to come in and hit the ground running. This requires confidence in one’s own ability and perhaps even more importantly, a clear understanding of their limitations.

As a rule, locum work will be more financially rewarding, but there will be less opportunities to attend educational meetings, develop further skills, which would be a priority in a training program. There is also the challenge of unknown surroundings and not knowing how a particular ward, hospital or GP surgery works. This means locum doctors have to be efficient and adapt quickly to different environments.

My typical day as a GP locum will read a little differently to Dr. Ahmed’s on the last blog post.

08:45: Arrive at practice (earlier on day 1 in order to orientate to the surgery, log in, get the printer running!)

09:00: Clinic starts- 18 routine appointments with two phone appointments. The complexity of the patient will be similar to a regular doctor, but there will be a larger number of acute presentations. Patients with ongoing problems will try to see a doctor who has been dealing with them so far.

12:00: Check blood test results, hospital letters, tasks that have come in over the course of the morning.

12:30: Home visits. As a locum, I insist on limiting my home visits to a maximum of two a day.

13:30: Lunch, prescriptions, queries, insurance reports.

14:30: Start afternoon surgery, identical in numbers of patients and layout to the morning surgery.

17:30: Finish off any outstanding issues, tie up all loose ends. As a locum, you may not be coming back to this surgery again, so it is vital to leave with a clear desk.

18:00: Time to go home. Locum doctors are not usually required to attend practice meetings.

A locum GP can set their terms including pay directly with the surgery they are working with. The accepted rate will vary from city to city. Larger cities mean more GPs, less demand and lower rates of pay. Smaller and more rural areas may offer better remuneration as the GP pool is smaller.

Dr. Ahmed touched on the salary of a GP partner. A locum GP will earn between £550-750 a day, however, they will not earn on the days they do not work. The potential earning capacity is very good, but every doctor must watch for burnout and ensure time off regularly in order to continue enjoying their job.

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