If you find the business side of being an independent locum a burden, you could consider working for a locum agency.
The advantages of working for a locum agency
- You are employed by the agency so you are freed from the burden of arranging your own business.
- You don’t have to go out and sell yourself because the agency finds you work.
- You don’t have to negotiate with practices and you are generally paid the going rate.
- You can move into an area, sign on with an agency, and start work immediately (well, as soon as you have supplied the agency with the necessary paperwork).
- Increasingly, agencies offer their locums 24 hour help, and support with CPD and revalidation.
- Some agencies offer help with immigration problems, housing and even transport.
- If you want to travel, an agency may be able to offer jobs in different parts of the UK or even abroad.
The disadvantages of working for a locum agency
- Agency locums work out more expensive than independent locums, so are rarely practices’ first port of call when they are looking for locums. So agency locums may find they are working in practices which are not well organised or are in crisis.
- Money earned through agency work is not eligible for the NHS pension. You will need to make alternative pension arrangements.
- You lose the advantages of self employment.
- Look carefully at the contract you sign with the agency. It may forbid you from working independently at a practice to which the agency has previously introduced you. Unless you are in an area for a very short time, such clauses can restrict you future work.
There are lots of agencies out there: big, small; local, national and international; run by managers or by GPs. Before signing on with an agency, have a look at what different agencies offer and talk to local locum GPs about their experiences with agencies.
Remember, there is an alternative to working for an agency which offers you the best of both worlds: independence and self-employment but freedom from most of the burden of organising your business. And that is, joining a chambers.