The UK is an attractive base for young Australians and New Zealanders to gain international professional experience, while travelling the world. Locumming makes this dream a reality. In the UK, locum roles are filled through recruitment agencies.

What is a Locum? The term 'locum' refers to a person filling a role on a temporary basis. 'Locumming' is when a contract worker uses short term contracts as a source of income. Locum work generally has a higher hourly pay rate, but doesn't include employment benefits such as sick leave, annual leave, or insurance. Locum work is purely paid by the hour, like a casual employee. If you don't work, you don't get paid. On the flipside, the locum can choose to take time off at times that suit them, and contracts can be ended with one week notice. Locums fill in maternity leave positions, complete short-term projects, or fill a role temporarily while a permanent employee is recruited.

Why use an Agency? In order to do locum work, registering with at least one agency is essential. Agencies also provide helpful advice on moving, particularly if you don't know anyone in the UK, and/or haven't been there before (like me). Most of the locums I've talked to are registered with up to three. There are a few reasons for this:

  • While the agencies have many of the same jobs, some may specialise in different areas (geographical or organisational) and have roles that other agencies don't.
  • Larger agencies are generally useful for getting settled, as they have more staff and sometimes organise social events etc.
  • Smaller agencies may offer a slightly higher pay rate, so that you take the position through them rather than a larger agency.
  • If you become a limited company (which most locums prior to 2017 used to do) you will need to show that you are working as an independent contractor rather than as an employee. Working for more than one agency in the tax year makes your tax clearer in regards to IR35 (more info on limited companies here).

Communication Diagram

Communication channels for locum work

The three agencies I’ve come across the most are Sugarman, JustOT/JustPhysio, and Your World. I’m registered with the first two, and I am well looked after. I also tried to register with a different one, but they lost contact. The NHS puts the agencies on different tiers, and prefer to deal with the ones at the top (which includes Sugarman and JustOT, and probably others), because they and their candidates (us) comply with strict NHS quality standards.

Registering with an agency initially is quite easy: you just need to contact them, send in your resume, and let them know your plans. They will allocate you a consultant who will usually be keen to keep in touch.

Completing the full registration is a bit more involved. This is what I had to submit:

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate (to prove change of name)
  • Passport
  • HCPC Registration
  • University degree certificate
  • List of residential addresses covering the last 10 years
  • Complete employment history (starting from my first job in high school)
  • Form to account for any gaps in employment of one month or more
  • Australian Federal Police check
  • Declaration that none of the members of my household have been convicted of criminal activities involving children
  • Agency application form
  • Health declaration form
  • Proof of childhood immunization (polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hep A, diphtheria, whooping cough) and appropriate boosters
  • Proof of Hep B vaccination & immunity
  • Proof of varicella immunity
  • Proof of TB vaccination
  • UK police check (DBS)
  • Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)
  • 2 proofs of UK address
  • National Insurance number (UK)
  • UK company and bank details
  • Photo for ID card
  • Certificate of completion of Mandatory Training

It can be a pain to send in all this stuff by email, then also show them the originals. Advice: stay organised. The consultants will keep you up to date with what they still need from you, but sometimes they forget or lose things.

Once I finally completed and submitted all these things, I was labelled “Compliant”. Oh, happy day! Now I can be contracted to work anywhere in the NHS quickly and easily, through either agency.

This post is long enough without going into more details. If you have questions, please ask :-)