Life as a new locum: Everything you need to know
Paperwork, pensions, and chasing payments – as a new locum GP, organising your professional life can feel overwhelming.
But according to NASGP, around 28% of all GPs in the UK work as locums. Why?
Locum work gives you the freedom to build your career as a GP how you want, develop new skills, and find what you’re most passionate about pursuing. But you can’t build a solid locum career without mastering essential skills early on.
The latest webinar in our 21st Century GP series focused on what you need to know to organise your professional life and avoid Sunday evening admin or pension stress. Dr Ishani Patel, a GP and Lantum’s clinical co-founder, spoke to GPs finding locum work for the first time about what they needed to know to ensure a long, sustainable career in general practice.
Striking a work-life balance
One of the first things Dr Patel emphasised was the importance of striking a balance of weekly clinical sessions. Because locuming is flexible, you need to develop self-awareness to prevent burnout.
Dr Patel recommends looking at:
- What portfolio career roles you want to target
- If you’ve just come back from parental leave
- Any carer responsibilities you might have
- How full-time locuming affects your work-life balance
Each year, stop and evaluate your work. Do you feel fulfilled by what you’re doing? Is it helping you live the lifestyle you want? If the answer to either of those is no, it’s never too late to make a change.
Make a good first impression
Dr Patel underscored the significance of building a professional brand. Her to tip? Leveraging LinkedIn as your digital business card to showcase your skills, experience and interests.
Everyone you work with is a new chance to make a good impression and build your professional network. Remember – many locums find salaried roles through locum work. Making a cup of tea for a team member or a friendly hello in the morning goes a long way.
Stay on top of your money and pension
Dr Patel’s answer to any tax question, big or small? “Hire an accountant.”
Professional advice, she said, can guide you through everything from maternity pay rights to income protection.
When it comes to finances, Dr Patel highlighted a couple of things to keep in mind:
- You’re wholly responsible for your tax, pension and National Insurance contributions, which are due on 31st of January for the previous year
- Keep your records for at least seven years in case you’re audited
- Keep business records clear and separate from personal expenses
To avoid a long to-do list, she also highlighted how Lantum helps locums keep track of their finances with automatic pensions paperwork and invoicing, and offers next-business-day payments with Rocketpay.
Negotiate your shifts
When negotiating shifts, Dr Patel emphasised the importance of considering various factors:
- How long the shift is
- What the expectations are
- How long appointments are
- What additional responsibilities you’ll have
- How much admin time is built in
If you’re finding shifts yourself, be clear on your availability, as well as terms and conditions. “Always have a conversation,” she said. “Put it in writing in advance, so at the end of the shift you know it went smoothly because you weren’t asked to do things beyond your agreement.”
If you need support finding the right working environment and negotiating hours, pay or responsibilities, Lantum has your back. Lantum can help streamline finding and negotiating shifts quicker, with your diary and practice communications all in one place.
Jumping into a new practice
Moving into a new practice can be daunting. You need to follow new procedures. Get access to new tools. Understand local pathways.
Some essentials to remember:
- Ask for an induction path, and don’t assume pathways are the same – ICS borders can change in unlikely places.
- Bring your doctor’s bag. Make sure you know where the emergency supplies and extra equipment are.
- Don’t forget to ask where the bathroom is.
- If you can’t find something in the locum pack, just ask.
- Find out who to talk to about safeguarding, complicated handovers, and appraisals.
- Stay in touch with practices through peer learning groups or meetings, and build relationships to make it easier to find work there again.
“Regardless of how you source your work, you need to build good professional relationships with practice managers and partners,” said Dr Patel. “Be open and non-defensive when it comes to feedback.”
Locuming enables you to get a lot of experience quickly. Shop around and find out what working environment you like best, whether it’s a busy urgent care setting or face-to-face appointments with families in your neighbourhood.
Final thoughts: Using Lantum to keep your work life organised
There’s a lot to remember when you’re starting out as a locum GP.
Lantum’s here to help organise your working life, whether it’s finding the best shifts in your area or spending less time on late-night admin.
No matter how often you choose to work, or what kind of locum work you’re looking for, Lantum makes it easier to build a dependable and sustainable career that fits your life. At the end of a long day treating patients, you deserve to leave the stress of the surgery and relax at home. You can use it for free and get instant access to:
- Free DBS checks
- Automated invoices and pensions forms
- A variety of rewarding work across different clinical settings
Join Lantum today to kickstart your career.