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Career Taster - Out of Hours

Dr Ruth Chapman looks into the out-of-hours work available in her area

Dr Ruth Chapman looks into the out-of-hours work available in her area

Why it's on my job menu I am interested in working flexible sessions and earning more when it suits me (if I've overspent on the credit card that month). A colleague told me there are fewer heartsink patients, minimal paperwork and less stress to take home. And that patients are always so grateful, which makes a change.

During inevitable quiet periods of locuming, out-of-hours work can keep you afloat financially.

The way out-of-hours work is organised is very dependent on the area. In some places it is PCT led, but in my part of Surrey the work is run by an on-call co-operative, Thamesdoc, which receives funding from the PCT.

I also like the idea of being driven around in a car marked ‘Ambulance' and occasionally using the green light.

Skills/traits needed The ability to work flexibly, although it is possible to arrange regular sessions of work. The work is arranged in four to five-hour shifts with longer shifts at night. At the walk-in centre (which may be based at a hospital) you work in a team with one other doctor and a number of nurses who run the triage. Some shifts are based in the mobile unit, which is equipped with a computer and other necessities.

During the night you triage your own calls, often giving telephone advice or arranging to see patients at the walk-in centre. From midnight to 8am you may do two to three visits on top of phone calls and consultations at the centre. One doctor told me that you sometimes have long spells to do your own thing, or get a couple of hours sleep.

Necessary training Applying to Thamesdoc takes a bit of time and you have to provide documentation; this includes GMC and MDU/MPS certification, vocational training, performers list, criminal records check, hepatitis status plus a CV and references. You are then interviewed, and if successful are added to their list of duty doctors.

At the moment, out-of-hours work seems oversubscribed – Thamesdoc currently has 100 people waiting for work and a colleague told me he had to wait three months before he got work with another provider. GP supervisor work is also available in some areas (after additional training) and involves supervising registrars fulfilling their out-of-hours training.

Avoid if... You can get a better hourly rate elsewhere (see below).

Obviously as the work is out of hours it does not mix well with family life. One doctor I spoke to found the work professionally isolating.

Pay rate Thamesdoc pays £50 per hour, even for overnight shifts. At weekends the pay increases to £65 per hour and on bank holidays to £100 per hour. Thamesdoc pay is pension linked.

The pay varies slightly with different providers but seems to range from £50-£65 per hour and is untaxed.

Find out more

Thamesdoc

Out of hours providers

Harmoni

Dr Ruth Chapman works as a locum and is on the flexible careers scheme

Job satisfaction rating Job satisfaction rating

2/5 This is because of the unsociable hours and relatively poor remuneration for the work. Although it is useful to keep up your out-of-hours skills, I would not want to do the work regularly.

Dr Ruth Chapman Out of hours

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