This F3 did most of his locum work in Southampton

My plan for the year

Coming out of FY2 I was certain I wanted to take an F3 year to boost my income and gain more independence over my working hours.

As such, I wanted regular long term work within a department to gain familiarity both with the team and with hospital systems. I wanted to try and avoid adhoc work in numerous departments or even hospitals over weeks and months. This was mainly because you’re unfamiliar with the nature of the work in that department or the routine of the ward. I wanted to avoid being ‘the locum for the day’ doctor.

Your ideas and plans might vary and you may look forward to the variety of work you can sign up to. The benefits of this may be that you extend your experience in different specialities and discover which departments you most enjoy working in.

Signing up to a Staff Bank

As such I applied to join a local staff bank in June, I was guided not to sign up to one too early. This is because some staff banks will take you off their records if you haven’t worked there for 3 months. The signing up process was lengthy but not too complicated. I simply searched online for the hospital’s staff bank webpage and contacted them directly expressing my interest and attached an accompanying CV.

Their response was prompt and opportunities for work looked promising. I also then spoke to current FY2s that I knew in that trust and sought their opinion on the likelihood of gaining long term locum work. They confirmed that plenty of shifts were advertised frequently and as such, I completed the necessary paperwork and obtained references.

Signing up to agencies

In a bid to ensure I wouldn’t be without work – I also signed up to locum agencies as I had been informed they provided better rates and this was verified by a locum F3 I was working with at the time.

To broaden my access to potential shifts, I signed up to 2 agencies. They were understandably eager to recruit and again the signing up process was again lengthy but not challenging.

Agencies are easy to find online, large companies like Medacs, Holt and ID Medical are amongst the popular one’s people often join.

Their business model relies on hours you work as their employee. For instance, they may procure a fee of £65/hour from the hospital, give you the majority; for arguments sake £50/hour but then keep £15/hour as their commission. This often means there can be some negotiation room with the agency and they can liaise on your behalf to secure a higher rate from the hospital directly.

Advantages and disadvantages of a Staff Bank

+ Likely to be the first port of call when shifts are advertised prior to being sourced externally i.e. via an agency

+ Some hospitals only employ members of staff via a staff bank and do not engage with external agencies

+ Able to access benefits eligible to staff members of that hospital, e.g. SOME hospitals will not charge you for the annual appraisal

+ Direct access to shifts without third party intermediate (agency). You can often get to know the rota co-ordinators and be contacted directly for shifts if you are a regular locum

  • Only able to work in 1 hospital
  • Flat hourly rate that is often non-negotiable

Advantages and disadvantages of an agency

+ Often higher rate & room for negotiation

+ A range of hospitals to work in

  • Work often short term (1 week/2 week) however long term work can be secure through agencies
  • Work advertise often very close to the date of the shift. Challenging if you want security over shifts

Final word

You’ll often find work in most parts of the country. The first thing to do is to call the staff bank and get an idea for how much work is available through them. If you do know staff at the hospital you intend to work in, try and get some insight into the processes for locums at their hospital.

Don’t sign up to too many organisations (be that staff banks or agencies) as they often all require references which can be lengthy to complete. Consultants are often happy to do this once or twice but by the time it’s the third or fourth time asking, expect to be faced with potential frustration. You may have to rely on them later for a reference for training posts so keep this in mind.

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Article by Dr. Ali Abbas Mossa