Working as a locum GP is a common starting point for many newly qualified GPs. Geographic’s, working conditions, patients are some factors a GP setting out on their career path understandably needs to assess before settling down.

What are the advantages of being a locum GP?

Flexibility – As a locum GP, you have more control over where and when you work. If you have a young child or older children and need to take time off during school holidays, being a locum enables this. You can work a few sessions a week on a permanent basis but anyone who works as a GP in Ireland knows your boss will always ask you for further sessions with the pressure’s on general practice today. This is where a locum agency like Med Doc comes in very handy, they are always willing to work on the premise of your availability and what you want. If you need to earn extra money for a specific purpose, you could increase your working week temporarily or do out of hours to enhance the bank balance.

Salary – As a locum, you can earn over €140,000 per annum working full-time. This is based on working an average of 8 sessions per week and doing four red eye’s per month in out of hours. Most of our locum GPs depending on your preferences will generally earn €100,000 per annum working 6-8 sessions per week with us and still enjoy higher than the average annual leave of 24 days per annum.

You are self-employed – As a locum, you are the boss. Generally locums earn more per day than most salaried GPs and even some partners. Being a self-employed contractor rather than an employee, you can claim expenses against your tax bill, with lots of locums setting themselves up as a ‘company’. These benefits include expensing your medical indemnity, travel and accommodation costs to name but a few.

Working in different environments – Working in different environments and treating new patients without getting involved in internal practice politics can be very appealing to most GPs. This gives you the chance to see different methods of working, both good and bad, enabling you to become the complete locum GP. Working in different locations and environments in gives you a really good taste of where long-term, you want to work or perhaps being a locum suits you just fine.

What are the disadvantages of being a locum GP?

No guarantees – One of the main drawbacks of working as a locum is, uncertainty. With no guarantee of a regular income stream a salaried GP enjoy, working as a locum is not for everyone. Luckily however, this market is very much candidate driven at present and thus being short of work is unlikely in the present climate.

You may not know exactly how much you will earn from month to month, or where you will work. For some GPs this is not really a big issue, but others find it difficult to cope with a variable income when they have fixed costs to deal with each month such as mortgages, school fees and general bills. Some locums will, over time get most of their work from a few regular practices, so that you might have a fairly fixed amount to your income, with the variation limited to the number of additional sessions that are available each month.

No employment rights – As a locum, you are a self-employed contractor, so you do not have any of the rights a salaried employee would have. This means no paid holidays, no paid study leave, no sick pay, no automatic increase in pay and no job guarantee or entitlement to redundancy pay. You will also need to make provisions to cover your expenses if you are off sick or unable to find work for some time.

Professional Development – Working as a locum GP can make it more difficult to engage in CPD – for example, you may not have the opportunity to attend weekly clinical meetings or journal clubs. Some parts of revalidation are more challenging – e.g. taking part in complete audit cycles can be quite difficult if you are not working regularly in any one practice. The latest guidance does allow alternative quality improvement activities to account for this. As a locum, you will not get any paid CPD time or study leave, so need to account for the cost of courses or e-learning as well as the lack of income while on a course when considering your fees.

Travelling – You may find that you need to be willing to travel long distances to ensure that you have enough work. Most agencies will always try to find you work where you prefer but this isn’t always possible. This can lead to increased tiredness and stress if you have to travel in peak times.

Summary – Like any job, working as a locum GP has its pros and cons. However, with more and more GPs moving into the locum arena, this would imply that perhaps the pros do in fact outweigh the cons of being a salaried GP.

If you are thinking of starting out as a locum and have questions, please feel free to call Med Doc today for a confidential discussion and perhaps do some sessions with us, who knows you might like it.