Is locum work really a thing?…


Locum work is a common way Veterinary Surgeons make a living in the UK. But it took me ages to understand what a locum vet is and how things actually “work”… So, what is a locum vet?


Well, for me the easiest way to put it is this: a locum vet is employed by himself and offers his paid services to practices in need of temporary vets. So a locum vet is selling his veterinary services to practices that might need a vet in a tight situation.

Most of the times, these “tight” situations are far from being unpredictable – they are maternity leaves, holidays, a weekend wedding. Or a full-time employee that became part-time and now there is some room here and there for another vet. Or a practice that is open on Saturday morning, but the vet doing that shift has a course for the next month.


The locum vet comes to the rescue – at a certain price, he (or she!) will fill in that role. There are some things in the world of locuming that are complicated, especially for those unfamiliar with the area. It was a very confusing world for me at first! So let’s dig deeper…


Working Hours of a Locum Vet

As a locum vet, you offer your services to the practices that need you. That means that you often need to accommodate to their own needs, whether they need you for 4 Saturdays in a row, or a full week from 9am to 6pm. They might need on-call. They might need you to visit the practice during the night. Of course, you decide whether you want to do this or not – many vets decide to locum so they skip all the on-call and night work! This is all to say that, as a locum vet, you can work anything from a couple of hours a week to the equivalent of a full-time job… But you ultimately have the power to decide!


Amount of work for a Locum Vet

Depending on where you are located, the amount of available work changes significantly, but currently, there is a moderate need for locum vets in many places. The nature of a locum’s work is bound by a certain level of uncertainty about when the next job is going to show up. People don’t just have babies all the time or provide that much notice when going on holiday… But the advantage is that you decide when you want to be available to work or not.


Good Locum Vet Skills

Now, this is a lot more tricky. A well-rounded locum vet is confident in all the routine cases and procedures. They are able to perform routine consultations and surgeries. Many of the times, they should be confident with sole charge (that is, working without the support of another vet). They might work on-call or be covering practice emergencies, so they must be confident in taking in these kinds of cases. This is not to say you can’t locum if you don’t want to do surgery! There are consulting-only roles too… it just means you might struggle more to find suitable placements. Locum vets are hired to fill in a gap and get the job done! That is why it’s very hard to find locum placements if you have little experience, limited experience and your skills don’t match the requirements of the placement. A well-rounded locum vet is always in demand!!!


Payment as a Locum Vet

Another reason why skills are so important is that a locum’s pay is higher to the equivalent of a full-time employee to account for the inconvenients of the position, such as lack of sick pay and the temporary nature of the job. A locum vet is paid at a higher rate and will often have his/her own rate. It’s probably close to impossible to find a locum vet that works for less than £200 per day. And those with experience and confidence – the ones that really get the job done – can charge well over £300 per day of work. Other people offer an hourly rate to provide more flexibility to the hiring practices. The thing is – a good locum vet is worth it!


Receiving payment is a whole other story… We will leave that for next week!


Responsibilities as a Locum Vet

It’s impossible to cover all of these in such a short article. The good news is, I can always write more articles! So we’ll briefly touch this so you have an idea of what is expected of a locum vet.

As a locum vet, you should provide a high standard of care while taking into account the practice protocols. Try to stick to the time – 10-minute consults are 10-minute consults, not 30-minute consults – and avoid changing ongoing treatments that have been in place for long periods of time unless they are actively harming the patient. Don’t go around using alfaxalone for a German Shepherd if the practice reserves it for cat spays. This can be very tricky and requires a huge level of adaptation as you might only be in one practice for 5 days, then off to another one that works in a completely different way.

Locum vets are also responsible for their own scrubs and working material, like their stethoscope, other accessories and any books (such as the very useful BSAVA Formulary), unless previously instructed by the practice.

Most of the times, they have to be able to travel and transportation is at their own expenses. Accommodation, if required, is usually provided, but the “standard” of accommodation can be quite variable – and, again, might be some distance from the practice.

Finally, a locum vet should have his own VDS cover or a similar arrangement, that is, personal liability insurance in case they are personally targeted in any type of lawsuit. Practices will often cover any practice employees, but this does not cover against personal complaints.


There are lots of things to think about when locuming and this is just giving you an idea about what it is about. Does it sound like something you might enjoy doing?

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