Locum Mastery: Life as a Locum GP

When you’re working as a locum, you’re essentially running your own business. Along with that comes all of the perks and challenges involved with being your own boss. You’re self-employed, so you decide how much you work, where you choose to work and, in some cases, how much you charge for your time. Yet along with that flexibility, there are admin and finance responsibilities that you need to keep in check. It’s nothing too complex or difficult, but there are important things to remember if you want locum work to be as stress free as possible, bringing you the flexibility you want from your medical career.  

We work with thousands of locum GPs, so here are some of the most common questions that we get from doctors who are considering locum work, including everything you need to be aware of on the ‘business’ side. 

The basics: how does a locum work? 

When you’re working as a locum, you cover a set number of sessions for GP practices. How many sessions you work is up to you and the practice. 

You might be filling in for an absent GP who’s unwell or on leave, or the practice might have hired you for a case that needs your specific experience and specialism. 

What are the benefits of locum work? 

Because it’s up to you when and where you take your sessions, locum work is the most flexible way that you can practise. 

When you want to increase your income, you can work more sessions. When you want more free time, or you want to work around family and care commitments, you can give yourself the time you need. 

Also, wherever you base yourself, you can probably find locum work nearby. If you like to travel around the country or you have an extended stay somewhere with friends and family, you can pick up sessions as it suits you. 

Down to business: how to become a locum GP 

You can work as a locum GP if:  

  • You are a fully qualified doctor
  • You have full GMC registration 
  • You are a registered GP

The next question is how do you set yourself up as a locum? That’s where the ‘business’ of being a locum comes in. You can register as a self-employed freelancer, or set up a limited company. 

It is worth reviewing each option carefully because they impact things like your tax and pensions differently. You’ll need to make a judgement on which makes the most sense for you and your circumstances. 

There’s nothing particularly difficult about the setup, but you just need to make sure that you’re registered with HMRC and the NHS, that you’re invoicing the surgeries correctly, and you’re paying the right taxes. 

Do the IR35 tax rules apply to locum GPs? 

That depends. The official guidance on IR35 states that: 

“The rules apply if a worker provides their services to a client through an intermediary, but would be classed as an employee if they were contracted directly. A worker may have some contracts which fall within the off-payroll working rules and some which do not.” 

In the end, it’s the practice’s responsibility to establish whether the work you do falls under IR35, but if you need or want to find out for yourself, there are tools you can use and it’s not very hard to answer. 

The locum experience 

Some doctors choose to do locum shifts in between permanent positions, some do it part-time, and some make whole careers out of it. 

Working as a locum GP is a great choice for a lot of doctors, but there are trade-offs to everything. One example is in the sense of community. 

If you work at lots of different surgeries, it is unlikely that you will build the same rapport with patients and colleagues as you would if you were a permanent member of staff. A good search partner will find you a practice that’s a good fit, but you don’t tend to form long-term bonds when you’re working temporarily. 

Locum motion: How to find a locum job 

Finding locum work with a talent specialist means that someone will take care of a lot of the admin for you, including negotiating your day rate on your behalf. All of that comes at no cost to you. That specialist will also notify you when sessions become available, so rather than always searching for a post, you know that the options will be delivered to you. 

Why work with MCG Healthcare? 

We know how much patient care means to you, and we know that the best health outcomes happen when professionals can flourish. That’s why we only place people into roles where they will do just that. 

We are sector specialists who are focused on you and what you want, and we always keep front of mind what an ideal career path looks like for you. We are here for you and available whenever you have questions or need help. 

You will also get the support of our Wellbeing Lead, Dr Matt Mayer. Matt knows how overwhelming general practice can be, and he offers the advice and the outlet that so many GPs need when they’re facing the pressures of the job. 

To start your locum career with healthcare sector experts who truly understand the GP experience, contact hello@mcghealthcare.co.uk or call 0330 024 1345.  



About the author
Roberto Orlandi Recruitment Manager

Roberto Orlandi is the GP Recruitment Manager at MCG Healthcare. He specialises in working on large scale recruitment campaigns within the Primary Care Sector but predominately with GPs. Having spent over seven years in the industry, he has a passion for providing solutions to the NHS and ensuring patients receive the care they deserve.

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