Working as a locum doctor provides you with the ideal alternative to occuping a permanent position at a general practice or local hospital. Many locum doctors use this form of part-time employment to supplement their existing income. Although the work you will be required to perform as a locum will broadly be the same as what you’d carry out in a permanent position, there are a number of core differences between the two types of employment.

With the ability to cherry pick the positions you take and more flexibility over both your salary and the hours you work, being employed as a locum doctor possesses many attractive benefits. Nevertheless, choosing locum work should be something you take careful consideration over, whether it be on a part-time or on a full-time basis, it is vital that the nature of your locum work suits both your career aspirations and general lifestyle.

This guide should hopefully expose some of the variations between locum work and traditional GP employment. We will run through exactly what you can expect from life working as a locum, along with both the advantages and challenges you may face.

How Does a Locum Doctor Role Differ from a Permanent Position?

From covering last-minute healthcare gaps to supporting different departments in times of high demands, locums play an essential role in our health service. Locum work also includes more long-term opportunities, such as maternity cover. You can choose between short-term placements and long-term positions.

Locum employment offers far more flexibility in the job than a permanent position would. You have the freedom and ability to choose a working pattern to complement your lifestyle, meaning you can fit your work around the demands of your life.

What are the Requirements of Being a Locum Doctor?

You will still need to be a fully qualified doctor even to do locum work. You must have a full registration with the General Medical Council and be registered as a practitioner or GP. This is exactly the same for permanent positions. Furthermore, having plenty of credentials and extensive experience is highly likely to work in your favour when applying for locum work.

What to Expect From Locum Life

With the high level of freedom you can expect from locum employment, you have wider flexibility over your working hours, the locations you wish to work in, the medical services you decide to practise in and the chance to negotiate your salary.

However, this requires you to be eternally well organised, making sure to stay on top of your schedule and incoming finances. If this an area of life you are dubious about excelling in, then doctor recruitment agencies are there to assist you in these processes. They’ll also help you out when it comes to moving from one position to the next. Nevertheless, with each move you make, you will be required to effectively adapt to the different environments and members of staff.

As a locum doctor, you can expect to oversee a considerable number of patients, however, you’re far less likely to attend to the same patients repeatedly. Some locums find this aspect of work exciting, but equally, it can be difficult to familiarise yourself with individual patient cases before having to move on again.

Now that you are aware of what to expect from locum life, you may be intrigued to hear some of the advantages and disadvantages of this type of work entails.

The Advantages of Work as a Locum Doctor

You can guarantee, that with locum work, you’ll be able to develop the ideal work-life balance whilst experiencing a range of different working environments. Here are some of the other benefits you can expect to experience in this type of work:

  • The freedom to determine your own working schedule
  • The chance to work in a variety of practices across the country
  • The opportunity to explore different career options before staying put
  • The ability to switch between various roles and sectors
  • The potential to earn more than you would in a permanent position
  • The possibility to develop your CV and build on your experiences

The Disadvantages of Work as a Locum Doctor

Although there are a plethora of attractive benefits that are included in life as a locum doctor, there are also several drawbacks to the job. Like any job in the healthcare sector, locum employment requires a great deal of self-discipline and dedication. If you are thinking of full-time locum work, then you must be able to effectively manage your time and keep on top of your income and working schedule. As a consequence of this, there are a few disadvantages to be aware of.

  • You are unlikely to recieve sick pay or be offered a pension scheme
  • Maternity and paternity rights may also differ
  • You’ll be completely in charge of managing your finances
  • If you don’t want to manage your own finances, you will need to hire an external accountant
  • Establishing good working relationships with other staff can be difficult when you’re constantly on the move

Now that you are aware of both the benefits and drawbacks of locum employment, you need to consider whether a career as a locum doctor is suited to you. It is worth noting that you can seek locum roles at any point in your career as a doctor. Whether you are just starting out your career, or an established doctor looking to supplement your income with additional locum shifts, locum life suits a variety of lifestyles and career situations.

Experiencing a Range of Environments

Often, one of the principal reasons doctors embark down the locum route is for the chance to experience a variety of medical disciplines and working environments. If you are a junior doctor and unsure of what area you wish to specialise in, spending some time as a locum can be extremely valuable. Locum work allows you to experience employment in an array of environments including emergency departments, the military sector or in a local general practice.

Similarly, if you are an experienced and established doctor looking to explore alternative avenues, then trying out work as a locum could be something to consider. Doctors who are looking for ways to change their career path often switch to locum work later on in their career, especially if they have been employed by the same practice in the same role for a number of years.

Long-term and Temporary Jobs

Although you will be able to find some long-term work as a locum, the majority of locum doctor jobs will be on a short-term basis. If you find yourself out of work, or are looking to specialise in a specific branch of medicine and are having difficulties finding a position, then seeking locum work in the meantime is a perfect way of maintaining financial stability whilst doing what you enjoy.

The temporary positions are guaranteed to provide you with valuable medical experiences that you can utilise when applying for future positions. If a permanent role is not something you are looking for, then don’t give up on your career ambitions and settle. Embarking on locum work while you wait for the ideal job to arise is one of the best temporary employment solutions.

Enjoying the Benefits of Flexible Working

As we have already mentioned, working as a locum provides you with a level of freedom and flexibility that cannot be achieved in permanent roles. If you have young children, travel demands or family members to take care of, then locum work can offer the flexibility to accommodate your personal responsibilities.

With the ability to take control of your career opportunities and workflow, locum life allows you to effectively balance your personal life with work. Furthermore, if you are a junior doctor seeking to gain additional qualifications, locuming provides you with that extra time to study. In addition, you’ll find you have more free time to put into enjoying any out of work hobbies you are involved in.

How to Find and Secure Locum Employment

There are two main ways of finding locum employment within the healthcare centre. This can either be through medical recruitment agencies or by joining a locum chambers. There are a number of benefits to both methods of securing work.

Recruitment Agencies

This is the easiest and most common route for those seeking locum employment to take. The point of an agency is to oversee the full process of finding and securing work for you, which means a lot of the legwork is done on your behalf. Certain agencies will also provide the necessary training for you while you are in a specific position. There are agencies who will also assist you in locating accommodation for you and sorting out travel.

Agencies generally also offer more flexibility when it comes to working hours and will source both long-term and short-term roles. This provides you with a much greater choice for finding the role most suitable for you. Locum agencies will also source work on a national basis which will make it easier for finding work in your desired location.

You may also find that you are able to reach the higher salaries when you’re apart of a locum recruitment agency. Agencies tend to advertise roles that are paid higher than the roles offered by locum chambers. This is especially the case for those positions that are more skilled, medically demanding and need to be filled urgently. Agencies will also ensure you are paid on time and often on a weekly basis. Nevertheless, there are some benefits of finding work through locum doctor chambers that should be considered.

Locum GP Chambers

Locum Chambers provides a valuable support system for locum doctors and helps to bring them together under one body. They offer professional advice when it comes to locum work and will support you in sourcing your next position. By notifying locum doctors of new positions and sending their details to local practices, the chambers act as an information sharing base. It also allows doctors to share their experiences and work together to discuss best practices.

Being part of the chambers usually means that a small percentage of your income goes to the group. However, you have to think of this fee as a small investment. The percentage you pay is countered by the support and training you’ll receive. The chambers also book all of you work for you which helps to relieve you of any pressure when it comes to seeking positions. Here is some more information worth reading up on about locum GP Chambers


Although you will still be providing the same medical care as you would in the position of a permanent doctor, there are several important differences when it comes to locum employment. Whatever your reasons are for seeking locum employment, there are a number of things to bear in mind throughout the job seeking process and once you enrol in a position.

You need to ensure that locum work is guaranteed to suit your personal commitments and general lifestyle. While you may be subject to periods of shift irregularity and income fluctuations, as described above, there is a whole host of desirable aspects to becoming a locum doctor. For more information on starting out as a locum, get in touch with the team at Medical-Locums Group today.

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