A Q&A on Locum Life in the UK

Thinking about what it would be like to work in the UK as an Allied Health Professional? Here is a first hand account from Locum Occupational Therapist Sage McPherson… answering questions from how to open a bank account to all the exciting travel she is planning to do!

How long did it take you to complete all necessary preparations to work in the UK?

Approximately 3 months to organise my move from Melbourne/Yarrawonga to the UK, besides my HCPC registration which took 8 months. I found the UK working holiday visa simple to navigate. I’d recommend researching the HCPC application early and ensure you have all documents handy before commencing writing the application.

Have you found it expensive living in the UK and how much money would you advise AHP’s to have saved before travelling to the UK?

I live in the west country of the UK in Bristol and I find the cost of living reasonable. The price of rent in Bristol is similar to Melbourne. The cost of living is lower then London, however it isn’t a huge international city and the work opportunities are fewer. There is pros and cons of living in places other then London and you just need to do what suits you best. If you are eager to start work soon after arriving you do not need a large amount of savings. Note, some rental bonds are greater in the UK then Australia.

What did you need to do in order to prepare for work once you arrived in London?

I completed a one-day AHP mandatory training course. I then met with Joe and provided hard copies of my training certificates to be photo copied which is a legal requirement before commencing work. I was mailed a work uniform which includes lovely green pants.

How did you open a UK bank account?

This was the best advice I was given. Open an account with an online bank, like ‘Monzo’. This removes the chicken and egg problem of needing an address to open a bank account and a bank account to apply for an address.

How helpful were MediRecruit and your London Healthcare Recruiter when it came to finding a job?

Very helpful, Joe from RIG sourced my first UK.  He answered many questions regarding logistics of working in a UK hospital and spent a substantial amout of time looking into different locations in the UK where I was considered working.

Where did you stay when you first arrived in the UK?

I stayed in London with a friend for a week. Then I went hiking during a homestay in rural Wales for a week or so. I used this time to consider work locations and roles, while having the ease of being located in the UK rather then Australia. Recruiters can source you roles before or after you arrive to the UK. Don’t feel pressured to source a role before you arrive.

What was you first locum job, where was it and for how long?

In a small coastal town called Weston-super-Mare. It was in a busy winter pressures acute ward for 6 weeks. I then sourced a role in amputations, burns and plastics at a hospital in Bristol.

How did you find accommodation with your first locum job?

Hospital accommodation was offered for my first locum position. I now live in a sharehouse in Bristol.

Did you find it hard to meet new people and have you met any fellow Aussie or NZ therapists along the way?

People in Bristol have been really welcoming. I’ve been lucky to make some dear friends through work and via friends-of-friends. I have a great Australian friend who works as a dietician in the other Bristol hospital. Otherwise, NHS workers seem to be from all different countries and backgrounds. Working for the NHS makes you feel like you’re part of the community.

What’s the best advice you can offer an Allied Health Professional considering a working holiday in the UK?

To take advantage of flexible contract work to suit your lifestyle. Also, to be confident of your clinical skills despite the different setting.

What did you find most challenging in the entire process of preparing to work in the UK, relocating and finding a job?

Trying to find accommodation and a job which is a suitable distance from each other but needing to source both at the same time.

How have you coped with the weather?

It’s all part of the experience. I’ve got a great coat from the op shop and gloves. I get frustrated cycling in the wet and the 4pm darkness. I try to remind myself that the green hills and parks are due to that the constant drizzling. Summer in the UK is a really fun time and everyone loves being outdoors.

Now that you’re settled in the UK what are you most looking forward to in the next few months?

I’m looking forward to meeting friends in Germany for Christmas. Hopefully it snows! I’ve got tickets to see a band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in Lisbon during April and a trip planned to Tel Aviv, Israel after my current work contract ends. I’m hoping to volunteer again at Glastonbury Music Festival which is located in Somerset, just south of Bristol.

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