Locum working for SAS doctors

This guidance provides SAS doctors with everything they need to know about locum roles and contracts, as well as what happens if you choose to return to a substantive post.

Location: UK
Audience: SAS doctors Consultants
Updated: Wednesday 1 June 2022
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Some SAS doctors may prefer the flexibility that a locum role provides. It’s important to be aware of how locum roles should work and what your contractual rights are, as well as what happens if you choose to return to a substantive post.


Locum contracts

Locum appointments should only be made to cover a substantive post and the use of long-term locums should be avoided. Locums have no automatic entitlement to be appointed to the substantive post when it is filled.

A locum SAS doctor can be appointed to cover:

  • annual leave
  • study leave
  • sick leave
  • maternity leave or adoption
  • or other types of leave for any senior clinicians (SAS doctors and consultants) and to provide cover for temporary vacancies.

The length of appointment can vary from a few weeks to several months.

Locums should be appointed for a maximum initial period of six months. Any extension beyond that should be subject to a satisfactory review by the employer and in consultation with the relevant colleague. Contracts can be extended by a maximum of six months (making the locum contract 12 months in total).

The Department of Health have agreed that employers must not use locum appointments as long-term solutions to staffing problems.

If you are appointed for longer than a year you should contact the BMA for further advice as you are missing out on career progression and potentially career development.


Terms and conditions of a locum SAS doctor contract

Apart from the differences detailed on this page, all sections of the TCS (terms and conditions of service) for 2008 associate specialists and specialty doctors apply to locum appointments.

Locum specialty doctors must have full registration with the GMC (general medical council) and must have worked for a minimum of four years in full time postgraduate training, at least two years of which have been in the relevant specialty.


Terms and conditions of a locum consultant

In certain circumstances SAS doctors can be employed to work as locum consultants. In these cases, the provisions of schedule 22 of the consultants TCS will apply (and in Scotland, the provisions of section 11 of the 2004 consultant contract will apply).

Specialist registration is not required to work as a locum consultant.


Job planning and inductions

In all locum posts doctors should be provided with an induction which is appropriate to the post and the length of the appointment.

For doctors working in longer term locum posts, a job plan should have been agreed by the time the doctor takes up the post. An initial job plan review should take place three months into the post.

Objectives should be agreed as part of the job planning process and locums should have the same access to resources, eg, for administrative support and continuing professional development, as other SAS grade doctors.


Leave entitlement

Specialty doctors and associate specialists working as locums will be entitled to five weeks annual leave (or six weeks for specialty doctors who meet the criteria detailed in Schedule 17, paragraph 1 of the TCS) and six weeks annual leave respectively per 12 months of continuous locum service*.

Leave should be taken during the occupancy of the post wherever possible. If this is not possible, leave may be carried to the next appointment or the doctor may receive payment in lieu for the leave which has not been taken.

Locum doctors in either grade should also be entitled to any public for statutory holidays falling due within the period of their contract.

*service as a locum in the employment of one or more NHS organisations uninterrupted by the tenure of a substantive appointment or by more than two weeks during which the practitioner was not employed in the NHS.


Returning to a substantive post

The incremental date for a locum is the date of taking up the appointment.

Where a doctor has held a substantive appointment as a SAS grade doctor before beginning locum service, all service in the locum post as a specialty doctor, associate specialist (or higher grade) will count towards incremental credit. This is when you return to a substantive specialty doctor post as if it had been in a substantive post.

For doctors who have not held a substantive post in the specialty doctor or associate specialist grades, locum service of three or more continuous months’ duration in these grades or higher grades shall count towards incremental credit at the rate of one half on substantive appointment to that grade.

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