Finances, How-to, Locum Passport, Locuming, Self development

How finding the right agency is the key to being a successful Locum.

Finding the Right Locum Agency

This blog is about using information available to you to find the right agency that meets your needs. This blog is perfect for you if you've been contemplating locuming, but not known where to start.

Moving from an employed healthcare professional to a locum is an exciting time, you are now in control of when you work, where you work, what you will work for and who you will work with. You have choices and being able to choose your next step is, for many people, freedom.  So, it's important when you start locuming to make sure that choice still exists and gives you the freedom that the locum lifestyle provides. In this blog we’ll be finding the right agency for you by asking the right questions and looking in the right places.
This blog will break down the topic into a few categories:
  • Framework approved agencies.
  • Specialist agencies.
  • Rates and methods of payment.

Framework approved agencies 
If you’ve been thinking about becoming a locum, you’ve probably googled ‘locum agencies’ and found pages and pages of agencies, that by and large look the same. Clicking on some agencies sites, the words ‘Framework approved’ may be sprawled across their homepage. What does this mean and should you take any notice of it? In a nutshell, yes you should take notice of it. Frameworks were introduced by the NHS to ensure that the locums brought in to fill roles in the service were and continue to be up to scratch and of a high standard. Much of framework standards revolve around compliance and making sure the necessary background checks have been completed. 

It's important to note that if you’re thinking of locuming as a pharmacist in community or as a healthcare professional in private/non-NHS settings, you don’t need to worry about the agency being a framework provider. That's because private organisations (such as high street pharmacies) will follow their own procedures on procuring locums.
Framework approved agencies have priority in filling hospital vacancies, which means that if you want the best options when locuming, joining framework approved agencies is the best option. There are 3 main frameworks that NHS hospitals use and each hospital may follow more than one framework. the main three in England are:
  • CCS
  • LPP
  • HTE
* There are also specialist frameworks for Scotland and Ireland. 

There are a few ways you can use frameworks to help you find the right agencies. You can either join an agency that is part of most of the frameworks or you can decide what area of the country you would like to work in and give the hospitals there a call. Find out what frameworks they are a part of and find agencies in your area that service that framework.
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Specialist agencies.
The locum sector is made of workers from every speciality and so the agency field has to cater for them all. You may be misled into thinking that an agency has the same number of roles for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and any other speciality but that often isn't the case. Instead, use the list of framework approved agencies in your target area that you made above to shortlist. Spend a few minutes on each agencies website to see their latest roles. Do they have a lot in your specialist fields? If they don’t show their latest jobs but you think they may have a good selection, it's always worth giving them a call to see how many roles they have.
Agencies will also vary on their DBS and mandatory training requirements. Most agencies will require you to complete mandatory training which can take hours. It's important to shortlist your agencies to those that will provide you with the best opportunities as most agencies will not allow you to transfer your training or DBS. Therefore, choosing the wrong agency can be a very costly and time-consuming mistake.
Rates and methods of payments
If you're an experienced locum you will know that the payment methods available to you have changed over the last few years. Nowadays, the preferred payment method by many locums is via an umbrella company. 
Umbrella companies are separate companies to locum agencies and many agencies will only work with “preferred” umbrella companies. This is important as not all umbrella companies deduct the same fees or make payments in the same way. Ideally, an umbrella company should have the lowest fees and processing time while offering you incentives such as paying for your parking during your working week.
Alternatively, some agencies will still pay into a business account and allow you to have greater control over your finances as a limited company. If you are thinking of locuming full time for a long period you may find running your business through a limited company is more financially rewarding. As a company you are able to claim expenses and mileage. To see how this could impact you, it's worth speaking to an experienced accountant. You can also read our article on managing your finances as a locum.
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In conclusion, finding the right agencies to work for takes time and a few phone calls. Find a location where you want to work, find out what frameworks those hospitals use and find agencies that are within that framework. If you’re unsure about where you’d like to work or would like to see all the options available, join agencies that are on multiple frameworks. You can also read about what we think the key skills to being a good locum are here.
Once you have your list of agencies, begin the sign-up process and get yourself compliant and declared fit to work as soon as possible. If you would like to cut down the time and effort this takes you may want to consider the Locum Passport, a handy app that manages your compliance, mandatory training and DBS information. By using the Locum Passport you can join multiple agencies quickly without hassle, giving you choices and free time galore. 

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